Port of the month

Port of the Month: Port of Thessaloniki (Greece)

31 January 2017

This month, ESPO would like to present to you the Port of Thessaloniki. Located at the shores of the Thermaicos Gulf in Northern Greece, the Port of Thessaloniki is a multipurpose port with a rich history dating back to Classical Antiquity. Let’s have a closer look at this interesting port!

ESPO: Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Thessaloniki? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

Port of Thessaloniki: The Port of Thessaloniki is located at the shores of the Thermaicos Gulf in Northern Greece. It constitutes a natural maritime gateway for the trade activities of the Balkan Peninsula and the broader area. Its advantageous strategic position is further strengthened by the fact that the Port of Thessaloniki is directly connected to Trans-European and regional transport networks.

Its infrastructure includes 6 piers with 6,200 meters of quays and has a berth depth up to 12 meters. The port is a multipurpose one and its basic services include handling of containers and conventional cargo, as well as serving passenger traffic, cruise and coastal shipping. The port operates a Free Trade Zone according to the EU Customs Code and serves mainly the transit trade of south-east Europe, as well as domestic cargoes.

The Port of Thessaloniki has a competitive position within the transit container and the transit non-containerised cargo market in south-eastern Europe compared to competitive ports in the Adriatic and Black Sea. However, in order to maintain this position and increase its market share, it has to address current needs as to achieve optimal operational performance levels in terms of service times, safety, security and costs and to implement all the necessary development steps, in terms of expansion of infrastructures, modernisation of equipment and improvement of access systems.

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) has issued an international tender process for the sale of 67% of the shares of THESSALONIKI PORT AUTHORITY S.A. (ThPA S.A.), the company which has the right to operate the Port of Thessaloniki until 2051. Eight investors have qualified for participation in the second phase of the tender process. The tender process is estimated to be concluded in the coming months.

EPSO: The Port of Thessaloniki is the second largest container port in Greece. How do you see the container business evolving in the port? What are the main challenges?

Port of Thessaloniki: Today the port serves container traffic through the Container Terminal on Pier No 6. The existing throughput is 350,000 TEUs/year (the maximum volume ever achieved was 440,000 TEUs in 2007). Container throughput consists mainly of domestic traffic and transit traffic to the northern neighbouring countries. Transshipment traffic constitutes a small portion of the total cargo throughput.

During the last few years, container throughput has shown a stable growing trend. The container transport demand of the port hinterland market is expected to increase significantly over the coming decades, particularly given the relatively low existing levels of the national economies of the neighbouring countries. Their level of integration into the world trading system has been steady. In addition, the development of the railway networks will create new market opportunities, including central Europe, as well as more distant south-eastern European areas.  

Transit container traffic constitutes the most important long-term future "opportunity" for the port. The port strategically aims to exploit the aforementioned “opportunity” by expanding the infrastructure of its container terminal as to increase capacity, by upgrading and optimally utilising equipment and container terminal processes. Our master plan sets out objectives considered essential for the fulfillment of the port strategy, over the period 2015-2040. Our aim is to proactively contribute to the sustainable development of the port and the region.

ESPO: The Port of Thessaloniki is located on the Orient-East Med Core Network Corridor of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T)? How has the port benefited of being part of this Corridor?

Port of Thessaloniki: Routing choices and to some extent port choices are strongly dependent on hinterland transport conditions.

Today the reliability of the “total route” has become increasingly important to those in the supply chain making the routing decisions.

Given the above considerations, with the realisation of the planned projects along the corridor, the port’s competitive position is undoubtedly enhanced.

It should be noted that the study for the new direct railway connection of the 6th pier of the port to the national network, as project related to the TEN-T, is approved to be funded. 

ESPO: The Port of Thessaloniki functions as an important transit hub in the Aegean and Black Sea Area, serving also other Balkan countries such as Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro. In view of this, can you briefly describe how the port is connected to the hinterland?

The Port of Thessaloniki is located at the crossroads of major European networks and serves a greater geographical area that, depending on the distance and the opportunities that exist, can be divided into two zones: the “direct” market (northern Greece, FYROM, south-west Bulgaria, south Serbia, south Albania and Kosovo), and the “secondary” market that includes the rest of Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania, as well as Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and Romania. The three neighbouring countries to the North are Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria while the other countries are located even more to the North. The port’s catchment area has a population of about 20 million.

Thessaloniki is a node of TEN-T and it is linked via road and rail with FYROM and Bulgaria, while with Albania only via road. In addition, the port is connected through national transport networks to the Adriatic Sea (west), as well as to Turkey (east). 

ESPO: In 2013, China revealed the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, containing two dimensions. The first is the Silk Road Economic Belt, which connects China with central Asia, west Asia, and Europe via land. The second one is the Maritime Silk Road, which links China with South East Asia, the Middle East, and Europe via sea. How could this initiative be of importance for the Port of Thessaloniki?

Port of Thessaloniki: There is no doubt that Greece is an important actor in the context of China’s OBOR strategy. Greece is seen as the European bridgehead for the Maritime Silk Road. Thessaloniki offers the potential of becoming one of the most strategic shipping gateways to south-east and central Europe. In view of this and the perspective of the development of the railway axis connecting the Port of Thessaloniki with the northern Balkan countries and central Europe, the port can play a pivotal role in the growth of intermodal transport in the area.

ESPO: The cruise and ferry business plays an important role in the Port of Thessaloniki. How is the passenger business evolving in your port? What are the main challenges?

Port of Thessaloniki: Cruise is a big challenge for the port, taking into account the cruise market trends and the recent developments in the Eastern Mediterranean. The existence of a hinterland with high potential to attract the interest of cruise operators (archaeological sites, areas of outstanding natural beauty, tourist poles and the urban complex of Thessaloniki) create a positive outlook of cruise activity. However, it should be noted that recent troubling political developments in neighbouring countries, as well as the general unstable political environment in our wider region, pose a challenge regarding the cruise industry that cannot be tackled by a single economic entity, such as the Port of Thessaloniki. This may result in re-evaluating our relative aims and adjusting at least our short and medium-term related strategy.

The intention of ThPA S.A. of increasing its cruise market share is reflected in the provisions of our master plan, where a new modern Cruise Terminal is foreseen.

In addition to the objectives related to the cruise market, ThPA S.A. aims to further strengthen the ferry routes to and from the Aegean Sea islands. Particular emphasis is also placed in establishing a Ro-Pax connection with the Port of Izmir (Turkey).

The establishment of a trade corridor between Thessaloniki and Izmir has high potential, taking into account the strategic location of the two ports, their importance in the transport of passengers and goods, and the fact that Turkey is an important trade partner for Greece as well as for the EU.

ESPO: The Port of Thessaloniki is embedded within the city of Thessaloniki. The relationship with the local community is thus of paramount importance. How is the port engaging itself towards the local community? Can you briefly describe the added value of the port to the city and the region?

Port of Thessaloniki: The port, historically linked with the city of Thessaloniki since 316 BC, has served as the core of the city’s and the region’s development over the centuries. The quantitative analysis of port throughput data and regional economic indicators reflects a significant correlation between the growth of the region’s economic activity and the port operation. The port constitutes a trading route for approximately 30% of central Macedonia’s GDP and 5% of the country’s GDP. Its role is important both for imports and exports, and also for the growth of productive and commercial potential in international value chains. This long-standing co-existence constitutes the paramount importance of creating “local value” through various multi-layer initiatives. The challenge is to formulate initiatives with a positive impact on the region’s economy and trade, while at the same time averting the negative environmental aspects. In order to achieve this, we try to engage all port stakeholders, build consensus among them and finally create synergetic impacts that will increase trade, the stimulation of new business and most importantly generate benefits for the community as a whole.

The port-city interaction is not limited only to the creation of the necessary conditions of trade increase, economic development and related sectoral specificities. To a great extent it is complemented by the molding of the city's identity. This is achieved aesthetically and architecturally by incorporating, within the city, the traditional port buildings and warehouses and culturally by establishing dynamic social activities within the port premises. The 1st pier is considered as a cultural and recreational events centre, since it accommodates three museums — cinema, photography and contemporary art — as well as the International Film Festival of Thessaloniki. The prestige of the port is further enhanced by the blending of its traditional characteristics with the contemporary events that take place in the city.

ESPO: What are the Port of Thessaloniki’s environmental priorities?

Port of Thessaloniki: The protection of the environment, sustainability and the continuous improvement of environmental performance has been a top-level priority for the Port of Thessaloniki. We are fully aware that transparent port environmental management offers a multitude of benefits not only to the port itself but also to the surrounding urban area, which is the second largest in Greece, and to the internationally recognised and protected RAMSAR and NATURA 2000 ecosystems that are in close proximity.

The Port of Thessaloniki is fully compliant with the national and international environmental regulations.

From 2003 till 2014, the Port of Thessaloniki was accredited according to the PERS environmental management standard and it’s a member of the EcoPorts network.  Since 2015 the Port of Thessaloniki applies an environmental management system in accordance to ISO14001:2004 for all international standard port facilities and processes.

ThPA S.A. continuously invests in educating and training all levels of personnel in order to keep up with the rules and targets set by the ISO14001 standard and it has incorporated in its master plan a set of future projects, investments and works that will further reduce the environmental impact of the operations carried out.

The port has enacted an “Environmental Monitoring Mechanism” through which all the environmental parameters are regularly controlled. The monitoring results are posted and are publicly available on the port’s web page.

The Port of Thessaloniki has high-standard reception facilities for ship-generated waste and cargo residues, as well as a strict waste management plan. Recycling of materials and reduction of product waste is a top priority in our environmental agenda.

ESPO:  ESPO is a partner of PORTOPIA, an FP7 project that aims to measure port performance. What is the Port of Thessaloniki’s approach for measuring port performance?

Port of Thessaloniki: A KPI system facilitates the effort to asses, manage and improve the current situation of the port.

Performance measurement and target setting are important for the growth process and they facilitate the achievement of strategic or operational objectives. In view of this and in relation to the fact that the port is a multipurpose one, we monitor cargo volumes, vessel statistics, financial indices, environmental indices and operations efficiency.

The company’s financial results and the relevant indices are regularly published, since ThPA S.A. is listed to the Athens Stock Exchange.                           

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