The revival of a millennia-old port

By Xinhua
On 11 October 2023 at 04:07

BEIJING, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) — Tassos Vamvakidis, who has worked at the Port of Piraeus in Greece for over five decades, has seen the ebb and flow of this millennia-old port. Nevertheless, there are still moments that evoke strong emotions whenever he recalls.

On Nov. 11, 2019, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Piraeus port, a flagship project of China-Greece Belt and Road cooperation, during his state visit to Greece. The project has brought the port back from the brink of bankruptcy through Chinese investment of capital and advanced technologies and equipment.

"The port was bustling with excitement, just like celebrating a festival," Vamvakidis recalled. "President Xi’s visit is of great significance for every staff member and the entire port."

Standing on a rooftop platform overlooking the port, Xi talked with the staff members.

"He spoke with wisdom and foresight," Vamvakidis recalled.

Xi said the principles of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) — extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits — mean that no single country dictates the terms and all participants share the responsibilities and the gains.

In 2013, Xi proposed the BRI, an initiative drawing inspiration from the ancient silk routes that bridged the East and the West through trade and cultural exchanges.

Over the past decade, China has signed BRI cooperation documents with more than 150 countries and 30-plus international organizations, helping participating countries address challenges such as inadequate infrastructure, lagging industrial development, limited industrialization, insufficient capital and technology, and a shortage of skilled workers.

The Piraeus project is one of them. Situated on the Mediterranean coast, Piraeus is Greece’s largest port and boasts a history of over 2,000 years.

As a pivotal gateway linking Europe with Asia and Africa, this port serves as a testament to the vicissitudes of European maritime civilization.

Yet, the prominence of Piraeus had been steadily diminishing for years until Chinese shipping company COSCO made an investment in 2008, helping it out of the clutches of the international financial crisis.

Thanks to Belt and Road cooperation, Piraeus has experienced rapid growth in recent years. Its container operating capacity surged from around 1.5 million TEUs in 2010 to 6.2 million TEUs, making it one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean.

The time-honored port is bustling with vitality. China and Greece, two ancient civilizations that began exchanges over 2,000 years ago through the ancient Silk Road, have been once again closely linked through this port.

The Piraeus port project has been a success not just for the Greek people and Chinese companies, but also for the region and all of the port’s business partners, said Vamvakidis.

"Seeing is believing," Xi said while visiting the port in 2019. "The BRI proposed by China is not mere rhetoric or a legend, but a concrete example of success and a wonderful reality."