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Greeks sign shipping finance co-operation deal with China

Piraeus-based association for shipping bankers and maritime financial executives will open office in Lujiazui Financial City

Greek owners have spent more than $50bn ordering at Chinese yards, while Chinese banks are said to have modest $3bn of exposure to Greek shipping

STIMULATING more Chinese financing for Greek shipping is one of the aims of a new co-operation initiative.

A pact has been agreed by Shanghai Lujiazui Financial City Council and the Association of Banking and Financial Executives of Hellenic Shipping.

Signalling backing for the initiative, a virtual ceremony for the signing of the agreement was attended online by several leading Greek shipowners as well as deputy minister of shipping and island policy Kostas Katsafados. 

Among the first steps to be taken under the aegis of the co-operation is for the Greek association, which has a combined membership of shipping bankers, ship finance experts and financial executives from shipping firms, to open a representative office in Lujiazui.

Dubbed the “Chinese Wall Street”, the district hosts more than 40,000 enterprises and 6,000 domestic and foreign financial institutions. The office will focus on co-operation with Chinese shipbuilders and providers of financing.

A further “mechanism” to promote communication between shipping companies and financiers in both countries will also be explored, according to the Greek association.

Greece and China already had a strategic partnership, said China’s Bank of Communications vice-president Huang Hongyuan, who signed the memorandum on behalf of the Lujiazui council.

“But there [is] so much more to explore.  We are here to create mutual opportunities for two international shipping centres,” he said, adding a China-Greece financial “Silk Road” would underpin the development of the shipping industry on both sides.

George Xiradakis, president of the Greek association, said that the agreement “goes well beyond an MOU, as the implementation of the plan starts immediately”.

The initiative has the backing of the Chinese embassy in Greece and the China Classification Society. “They will also play a significant role in promoting [this] effort that will contribute to strengthening maritime exchanges and co-operation between China and Greece,” said Mr Xiradakis.

Guests at the virtual ceremony heard that Greek shipowners since 2000 have built more than 1,500 vessels worth more than $50bn in China. The exposure of Chinese banks to the Greek market is said to be $3bn.

Shipowner George Prokopiou, whose companies have built 66 vessels at eight different Chinese yards in the past 13 years, said there was “a tremendous potential for expansion” in terms of financing.

Orders by his group had been worth a total $4.3bn, but most of the vessels were internationally financed, he said. At the same time, the veteran Greek owner gave a vote of confidence to China’s economy and financing capabilities.

“Over the years we have seen huge changes in the knowledge, attitude and competitiveness” of Chinese financial institutions, he said. “Personally, I do not believe we are entering a global recession,” he added. “On the contrary, I believe in the Chinese locomotive that will pull the world again.”

The Greek government welcomed Chinese banks and financial institutions to establish a presence in Greece, according to Mr Katsafados, who said this would “give them a competitive advantage of proximity to the world’s largest shipowning centre and the proven experience of Greek executives in this field”.



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