Cargonauts – The Game

The imperial infrastructure of logistical apparatuses – ports, railways, warehouses, software – inspire unforeseen acts of sabotage, which gives rise to an informal economy of scrap metal work. The subject of labour escapes regimes of measure special to software operations designed to extract value through the calculation of movement on global scales. The borders of the concession within which port activity is governed begin to unravel. New subjectivities of labour and politics are produced. Territory is redefined in ways external to inter-state and commercial agreements. This is how infrastructure makes worlds.

On the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF)

The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) is a key institution in the context of the privatization program followed by the Greek state under the successive memorandums of understandings signed with the Troika (including the privatization of OLP and other public infrastructures).

HRADF was founded under Law 3896/2001 of the Greek state. This law states that:

– The HRADF is founded as a Public Limited Company with the sole purpose of maximizing the proceeds of the Hellenic Republic from the development and/or sale of public assets.
– The Greek state is the sole owner of all the shares of the HRADF. These shares are non-transferable.
– The HRADF will operate for a period of six years.
– The HRADF is not subject to existing laws of public enterprises, but operates under the legal framework .
– The Greek state will transfer ownership of all public assets that are “under privatization” to HRADF, as stipulated by the privatization program of the Medium-term fiscal strategy 2012-15.
– The Greek State cannot reclaim any of these ownership rights from HRADF for any reason and in any fashion.
– All revenues of the HRADF received through privatization schemes will be exclusively used for servicing the Greek state’s debt.
– The HDRAF is governed by a 5 member board of directors appointed by the general assembly of shareholders the company (ie the Greek government). The appointment has to be approved by a 2/3 majority of the Public Companies Committee of the Greek parliament.
– Two (2) representatives of the Eurozone and of the European Commission, respectively, are present in all board meetings of the HRADF with an observer status.

The law is available (in Greek) at: http://bit.ly/U5esYH

The privatisation of OLP – end of round I

On April 28, 2014 the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) announced the results of its tender for the privatisation of OLP. Six investment groups have submitted their expression of interest. These are:

– APM Terminals B.V. (controlled by the Maersk group).
– Cartesian Capital Group LLC (an equity firm, with apparently no previous investments related to container terminal operation).
– COSCO (Hong Kong) Group Limited
– International Container Terminal Services, Inc (A Filipino company currently operating 3 European container terminals)
– Ports America Group Holdings
– Utilico Emerging Markets Limited (an investment company controlled by Morrison & co.)

it is now, finally, out in the open that COSCO is amongst the initial list of bidders. Media analysts expressed astonishment (especially the bids by Maersk and Ports America seem to have been unexpected). The privatisation process will continue with the evaluation of these proposals and the subsequent decision of the board of HRADF on which offers will make it to the next round.

Reactions against the privatisation have mounted in the past month, spurred by the upcoming regional and municipal elections. All candidate mayors for Piraeus (even those supported by the coalition government parties) have declared their opposition to the privatisation of OLP. Characteristically, even the “beyond political parties” candidate, Moralis, supported directly by Greek shipping interests, held his first big public electoral meeting at the OLP office buildings for symbolic reasons.

The OLP unions have not organised any mobilisations in the past weeks and have responded to the HRADF’s by filing a case to the Greek Supreme Court for the unconstitutionality of the tender.

[Update: 5 of the 6 bidders have made it to the second round. Only Cartesian Capital Group did not make it after a decions by the board of directors of the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund. The 5 biiders are now called to make a binding offer for the buying of OLP].

The privatisation of OLP – part III

In white t-shirts stamped with a “Not for Sale” logo, about 100 to 150 OLP workers gathered at Klafthmonos Square and then marched to the Greek Parliament on February 26, 2014 protesting against the privatisation of the state owned company.

OLP workers at Greek parliament3

The main demonstration slogans were similar to those of the “indignados” at Syntagma sq. during 2011, mainly equaling parliamentary politics to a brothel situation, etc. Yet, instead of chanting slogans, the protestors seemed to be mostly interested about talking about the previous night’s Champions league football match (Olymbiakos vs Manchester). There was no visible presence of the PAME, KKE or SYRIZA unionionists in the demonstration. Continue reading

The privatisation of OLP – part II

February 24, 2014 marked the initiation of a new round of mobilisation of OLP workers against the planned privatisation of the company (the Greek state owns 74% of the company’s shares which have now been transferred to the Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund).

All the OLP unions called for a 3 hour work stoppage and a gathering at the head offices of the company. Around 300 workers attended the gathering. The event was organised by the OLP union and attended by a number of political party and union representatives. Short speeches were given by MPs from Syriza and the Greek communist Party (KKE), the two Piraeus mayoral candidates supported by these parties in the upcoming municipal elections (scheduled for May 2014), and representatives of the Piraeus labour center and of the union of ship repair workers in Perama.

OLP - Mobilisation against privatisation3 Continue reading

The train is coming: Signs of activity at the Ikonio-Thriasio line

During our brief visit to the end of the rail link in Thriasio on February 12, 2014 we witnessed signs of activity. This is the first time in the past six months when some construction activity is taking place in the area. As we did not talk to any workers on the ground and we could not find afterwards any news items mentioning the resumption of activity, it is unclear to us of what this construction precisely involves.

Bulldozers are digging around the physical area where the rail tracks end, the parking lot on the upper side of the tracks is dug in several places, a group of two workers was building a tower post at the edge of the parking lot, two cranes were in operation, and new rail traffic signs were put in place in the area where the Ikonio-Thriasio rail link connects to the national railway network. These works are visible in the photos below:

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLP-Cosco amendment to the concession agreement

The OLP-PCT agreement for the amendment to the concession agreement was ceremoniously signed by the CEOs of the two companies joined by the Greek Minister of Shipping and was hailed by the Greek media as a spearhead for the country’s economic growth, involving a a 230 million euro investment and the creation of 700 new jobs. The agreement stipulates, in short, for the construction and exploitation of West Pier III in exchange for the suspension of the minimum guarantee that PCT has pledged to pay through the concession agreement. The agreement seems, however, to be on stall as the Competition Committee (DG Comp) of the European Commission is reportedly questioning it on the grounds of constituting an “Abuse of the Dominant Position” of PCT in the Piraeus container terminal. This intervention by the EU Commission is casting doubt on the future of the OLP privatisation process which is under way. Continue reading

Cosco-PCT output and productivity

Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT), the local subsidiary of China’s Cosco, handled 2.52 million twenty-foot equivalent units (teu) in Piraeus in 2013. When that is added to the 644,000 containers handled at Terminal I, operated by Piraeus Port Authority (OLP), Piraeus handled a total of over 3.16 million containers last year. PCT recorded a 20 percent increase from last year, when it handled 2.1 million teu, and, along with the 626,000 containers handled at Terminal I. This traffic puts Piraeus 3rd in the list of Mediterranean ports in 2013, behind Valencia and Algeciras.

For 2012, Piraeus port ranked 46th in the world in terms of container traffic. Piraeus port, according to the same data, topped the world list in terms of its five year growth rate (2008-2012) – increasing its traffic by 634% during this period. Continue reading

Cosco-HP deal revisited: Logistics

The PCT-Hewlett Packard-TRAINOSE deal for the transportation of HP products through the Piraeus terminal has not been implemented, yet. TRAINOSE, however, has inaugurated a daily commercial service on the Athens-Thessaloniki rail route in December 2013.

The upgrading of this commercial line is seen by the TRAINOSE CEO as a test case for the implementation of the HP deal as HP is an “extremely demanding client”. On the sideline of this development, some information about the logistical considerations of the deal with HP were seemingly given by TRAINOSE to the media. According to these, HP products will load in Shenzhen, China and reach their final destination, Kutna Hora at the Czech Republic, in 22 days. In comparison to the alternative routes currently in operation, the new multimodal transport route will be one week shorter for the delivery of HP cargo. The cost for HP will remain, however, approximately the same between the two routes. The relative high cost of the new route is attributed by the TRAINOSE CEO to the inefficiencies of the existing railway line. For example, near half of Athens-Thessaloniki route can only be served by antiquated diesel locomotives. All trains have thus to make a 20 minute stop and change from a diesel to an electric engine.

The privatisation of OLP – part I

The previously stalled privatisation process of OLP (Piraeus Port Authority) seems to be moving again. The Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF) has reportedly sent a draft tender for the expression of interest for the buy of OLP to the Greek parliament for discussion and eventual approval. The draft tender reportedly provides for the sale of the Greek state’s OLP shares to the highest bidder (whether this be a percentage of the shares or their entirety). Parliamentary discussions, first in the relevant committee, are pending. This is the first time that the HRADF seeks parliamentary approval for a tender, a novelty betraying internal political strife for the privatisation process and fears that the EU Commission might not approve the participation of Cosco as a bidder in the competition. Continue reading

The Ikonio-Thriasio line: Quiet days in July

2 visits – 5 July – 12 July, 2013

Turkey is the second China

Turkish “mousamades” waiting for days in a parking lot located in Piraeus port (nearby the OLP car terminal) for cargo arrivals to transport back to Turkey. This is “general cargo” that has been unpacked from containers in the warehouses around the port. The drivers might wait here for up to 10 days for a phone call telling them to pick up cargo to take on their return journey to Turkey. There are no services (toilets, water, showers) at the car park.

The name “mousamades” was given to them by the men that we met outside the OLP customs office. The term refers to the plastic covering that is used to secure uncontainerised cargo on the back of flatbed trucks. None of the men that were waiting when we visited had flatbed trucks, they were all curtain-siders.

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Continue reading

A guided tour around OLP’s terminal

olp pier5

On July 18, 2013 we were given a tour of OLP’s pier Ι and offices.

We first went around OLP’s terminal with the bus used for the transportation of workers around the pier. We were told that no one is allowed to walk or drive in the Pier alone for security reasons. In the entrance of the terminal, the security guard asked us to show him our ID cards and wrote down our data in a big book where all entries and exits of workers and visitors to/from the terminal are recorded. In Pier 2, on the contrary, electronic cards are issued for visitors, which allow them to enter by car. Our guide showed us the repair area of the terminal, where there was a large a “Chinese Go Home” sign on the wall. She then showed us the border with the PCT pier and then asked the bus driver to drop us off at one of the ship to shore cranes that were not in use (apparently, only 2 out of the 7 cranes were in operation on that day).

On that spot, our guide talked about the construction of the pier after 2009 (it had to be built and developed from scratch after the lease of all existing infrastructures and equipment to COSCO) and the introduction of automated processes in the everyday operation of the terminal. She explained that building the infrastructure for Pier 1 from the beginning was a very costly procedure. There was a rock that had to be blown in order to make more space and the concrete had to be reinforced in order to sustain larger container stacks. Continue reading

Truck drivers waiting to enter the Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT)

Trucks and truck drivers queue up every weekday outside a specialized entrance waiting to enter pier II for loading or offloading cargo.

We held informal discussions with truck drivers on July 10, 2013.

Drivers only arrive at the terminal once they have been notified by a freight forwarder that the cargo is ready for pick up. The freight forwarder is employed by the end client to coordinate the pickup from the terminal by the truck driver. Even though the cargo should be ready for pickup/delivery when the driver arrives at the terminal, the last driver that we spoke to had been waiting for over 5 hours with a container for delivery. The drivers gave different reasons for delays in pickup: clients who delay their payments; freight forwarders who mess up the needed paperwork; old fashioned custom procedures at the port; disorganized customs clearing agents. Continue reading

The Ikonio-Thriasio rail line: 10 days after

We tried to follow parts of the Ikonio-Thriasio rail link via different paths than last time on March 18, 2013.

@ the AtiTrans Depot Park in Schisto

Our first stop was a depot park located at Chorafa place, in Perama.

We held brief conversations with three employees of this company – the general manager of the depot, the accountant, and a truck driver- and a client who happened to be there. The rail link was not deemed to be of immediate importance to their business according to all of them. They were all aware of its purported operation, but as they said “it would mostly involve the transfer of transit cargo” directed towards the north of Greece and would not affect the port in any other way. Continue reading

The Ikonio-Thriasio rail line

The Ikonio-Thriasio rail line starts from within the COSCO Pier II of the port. The inauguration of the rail link was held on 1 March 2013 and was attended by 3 Greek ministers. It coincided with the official signing of the COSCO-HP agreement which was presided by the Greek prime minister. We visited the port a week after, on March 8.

Ikonio rail
Ikonio – start of rail link

Opinions on when the rail link will be operable diverged on the port. The agents of container and transport service providers who have set up shop in isoboxes located in front of the security fence of the Piraeus Container Terminal (PCT) did not seem to think that the rail link will affect their work in the short term. When we asked a couple of them if their companies have immediate plans on opening branches in Thriasio, they replied that they are staying put, since it will take at least a couple of years for the rail link to be fully operable.

isoboxes at pct terminal
PCT terminal – Transport and container services Continue reading