'Sold to China': Greece's Piraeus port town cools on Belt and Road

'Sold to China': Greece's Piraeus port town cools on Belt and Road

From https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Belt-and-Road/Sold-to-China-Greece-s-P...

Momoko Kidera, Nikkei Asia, December 10, 2021

Piraeus, Greece -- "They sold this place to China and Russia," screamed the graffiti on a road along the Port of Piraeus, about a 20-minute drive from Athens.

State-owned China COSCO Shipping secured the right to operate parts of Piraeus in 2008. It acquired 51% of the port's Greek state-owned operator in 2016, then increased its stake to 67% this October. The company pays 3.5% of the port's revenue to local governments.

China created jobs, but not good jobs, said Giorgos Gogos, leader of a dockworkers union at Piraeus. Certain operations rely on day laborers who are employed through contractors and receive little to no safety training. The port unions called a 24-hour strike after one worker was fatally struck by a container crane in October.

Most of the equipment and materials used in COSCO-led construction at terminals 2 and 3 apparently were brought in from China.

The company committed to invest an additional 294 million euros ($332 million) in the Greek port operator by 2021, but has completed only about 100 million euros so far. Plans to build a new hotel, mall and other facilities in the area have stalled. Greece has refused to accept environmental studies by the company, calling them insufficient.

In January, Greece blocked Chinese state companies from bidding on a power distribution project, citing their foreign ownership.

Belt and Road sit-in at Pakistan port shows no sign of ending

Adnan Aamir, Nikkei Asia, December 16, 2021

Islamabad -- A massive sit-in protest has engulfed the Pakistani city of Gwadar. The monthlong sit-in has drawn thousands of people to the Give Rights to Gwadar Movement. The demonstrators, many of them women, are camped at the entrance to the Chinese-controlled port. The demonstrators demand an end to deep-sea fishing by trawlers in nearby waters, removal of security checkpoints in the city and freer trade with neighboring Iran.

The port in Gwadar is the centerpiece of $50 billion in projects that make up the Pakistan portion of China's Belt and Road Initiative, known locally as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Local residents say there has never been such a large protest in Gwadar's history.

The city of Gwadar is home to about 138,000 people, around two-thirds of whom depend on fishing for their livelihood. Chinese vessels are said to be among deep-sea trawlers which drag large, weighted nets along the sea floor, sweeping up everything in their path.

Last year, Gwadar fishermen protested when it was reported that 20 Chinese deep-sea trawlers had been allowed to fish in waters off Gwadar. In July, five Chinese deep-sea fishing vessels were seized by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency near Gwadar with fish aboard.

Under the current agreement, 91% of port revenue goes to China, the remainder to Pakistan.