Greece forges ahead with China shipping ties

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Greece’s growing maritime ties with China have been boosted by a high-level visit to Greece by Cosco chairman Wei Jiafu and by the first letter of commitment from the China Development Bank, for two large Chinese-built tankers for a Greek owner.

Capt Wei’s meetings with prime minister George Papandreou, leader of the opposition Antonis Samaras, and senior representatives from Greek shipping and financial circles, explored ways of furthering close cooperation between the two countries and realising Greek ambitions of establishing Piraeus as Cosco’s European gateway.

The letter of commitment, arranged by Piraeus-based XRTC Ltd, covers some €150m in investment and is the first such deal achieved by a Greek company.

XRTC managing director George Xiradakis, who has previously represented French banks in the Greek market, told Ship Management International he was “very satisfied to have raised the first commitment letter from one of the most important banks that will play a future role in the development of ship finance globally, China Development Bank.”

Mr Xiradakis, whose punishing schedule has included more than a dozen trips to China in the last 18 months, with another to follow later this month, was confident of developing further business.

“What is good for the relationship between the Greek and Chinese markets is that the business philosophy and mentality is almost the same, and if you spend a lot of time with our counterparts in China you understand that they have the same concerns,” he said.

“They need long-term commitment and this is where Greek owners and Greek shipping have been successful; they have been committed to their partners and China will need partners – not just for the next few months or years, but for decades to come.”

Mr Xiradakis said he was impressed at how China’s government was reacting to changing circumstances and particularly China’s fledgling first steps on the international ship finance stage. “Government has taken into account discussions between all interested parties, including government officials, shipowners and others over the last five to six years and, as opposed to European Union countries and even the United States, has identified and set out targets and acted accordingly.

“Each visit by Greece’s prime minister has been followed by major Greek owners. They were instrumental in driving the Chinese – Greek relationship.”

Mr Xiradakis said that in his opinion the Chinese younger generation was quicker and better than well-educated than Europeans in assimilating, analysing, evaluating and “and getting the flavour of” data. Areas where difficulties arose included the complex financial arena where there were still too few Chinese who knew how to develop links with shipping communities including those of China, Greece, Scandinavia, Europe, the US and even Asia. Establishing ties would take time.

“I believe the safe expansion of the Chinese shipping finance market will be achieved by allowing international partners to work together with the Chinese and build on the fact that Chinese nationals who have worked in international banks now work in Chinese banks, using the knowledge they have acquired,” Mr Xiradakis said.