By Ilias Bellos, Kathimerini
The state is speeding up the process for the integrated use and upgrading of the key transport infrastructures in northern Greece, as sell-off fund TAIPED is aiming to quickly wrap up the privatization of Thessaloniki Port Authority (OLTH) by mid-March, as well as to enter the second stage of the tender for the Egnatia Odos highway and start the process for the concession of the port authorities of Alexandroupoli and Igoumenitsa.
Besides collecting revenues from these privatizations, the state aims to see the launch of investments in infrastructure and services in the region and the creation of a road and maritime route that, along with the national benefits, will link Asia with Europe, making the most of the country’s geopolitical position.
The plan agreed between Athens and the country’s creditors provides for TAIPED to start the latter part of the concession tender for Egnatia in March: The tender was announced in November, with the deadline for expressions of interest set for January 26. However, due to the complexity of the asset and pending issues, investors have asked for an extension till March.
That is also the time frame for the financial conclusion of the sale of 67 percent of OLTH for 231.92 million euros, along with the commitment for investments worth another 180 million. Almost at the same time as the completion of the OLTH sale, TAIPED will call a tender for hiring a financial consultant to prepare the tender for Alexandroupoli port and then that for the port of Igoumenitsa.
The same consultant is expected to undertake the tender for Iraklio port, on Crete, while later this year the tender for Volos port is also expected.
Although the model chosen is not for the concession of 100 percent of shares in the port authorities, the full set of port activities could be conceded should there be investment interest to that effect.
That will most likely be the case for Alexandroupoli: Interest in the Thrace port is great, and has been officially expressed by entrepreneurs in Eastern Europe as well as Asia, Greece and the US.
Igoumenitsa also offers significant prospects, with experts noting that it is garnering interest as a cargo port.
The utilization of those two ports, along with the development of OLTH and the sell-off of Egnatia, plus the Pan-European Transport Corridor IV in the Balkans, could considerably boost gross domestic product in northern Greece.