Sotirios Theofanis

EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN AND CEO OF THESSALONIKI PORT AUTHORITY SA

Greece 2019  I  Transport & Shipping  I  Interview

BIOGRAPHY he is an internationally acknowledged expert, academic and manager in the fields of freight transportation; logistics and ports. He served as the Acting Director for Ports with the Ministry of Merchant Marine (1985-1999), CEO Thessaloniki Port Authority SA (1999-2002) and Chairman and CEO of Piraeus Port Authority SA (2002-2004).

“WE ARE THE MAIN PORT OF SOUTHEAST EUROPE AND THIS PROVIDES US WITH A VERY GOOD STARTING POSITION.”

THE PORT OF THESSALONIKI HAS A RICH HISTORY OF OVER 2000 YEARS. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT ITS MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS?

 

The Port of Thessaloniki was a Public Port Authority. It became a corporation wholly owned by the Greek State in 1999 and in 2001, it was listed on the Athens Stock Exchange with the state retaining 75% of its shares. In 2013, the Government decided to sell 67% of the shares of the Thessaloniki Port Authority SA (ThPA SA) to the new owners of the port, the South Europe Gateway Thessaloniki (SEGT). Following the privatization, SEGT holds 67% of the listed ThPA SA, the Greek State retains a minority stake of 7%, and the other 26% is traded at the Athens Stock Exchange. The consortium is led by the German fund Deutsche Invest Equity Partners with 47% of SEGT shares with Terminal Link SAS, an international terminal operator, affiliated with CMA-CGM, holding the 33% of the shares and the remaining 20% belongs to Belterra Investments Ltd, a holding company based in Cyprus, owned by the Russian entrepreneur and active investor in Greece Ivan Savvidis.

 

The Port of Thessaloniki is export-oriented and plays an important role as a hub for the Balkans offering both conventional and containerized cargo. The annual container traffic is average 424,000 TEUs per year. Since the completion of the privatization, the Port of Thessaloniki has already recorded an annual increase of 7 percent both in container handling and in conventional cargo processing. We are expecting the activity level to increase by another 10% in 2019. In conventional cargo, we have reached 3,764,000 tonnes in 2018 and in the last two months, we have seen an increase of 111 percent from the same period last year. This has been achieved with the restructuring the port, increasing the level of service provided and a motivated management working closely with all employees.

 

WITH THE PRIVATIZATION, THE PORT OF THESSALONIKI HAS AGREED TO €180 OBLIGATORY INVESTMENTS. WHAT ARE THE MAIN OBJECTIVES OF THIS PLAN?

 

Our investment plan will include an extension of port infrastructure, expansion of platform by 440 meters with an additional space of 300 meters, new equipment at the container and bulk cargo terminals and general improvements of facilities, including the renovation of the old customs building, a structure designated as a heritage preservation site. The extension will allow us to handle main-liner ships with a capacity of 18,000 TEUs and above.

"THE PORT OF THESSALONIKI IS EXPORT-ORIENTED AND PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE AS A HUB FOR THE BALKANS OFFERING BOTH CONVENTIONAL AND CONTAINERIZED CARGO."

 

Before the end of 2019, we will create a new area of ​​26,000 m² for the temporary storage of containers to be exported, which is part of the gradual redesign of the overall operation of the container terminal and of the new investment program.  These investments will address the current needs of the port in order to achieve optimum operational performance levels in terms of service times, safety and costs. It will also reinforce our position as a hub of the Southern Balkans with the expansion of infrastructures, modernization of equipment and improvement of access systems. We will be investing beyond the port activity, with a strategy that includes dry ports and freight centers in Skopje, Sofia and Serbia. This is particularly important as it really puts the port into the next level, not limited to its own structure.

 

IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE KEY COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES OF THE PORT OF THESSALONIKI AND MAJOR BENEFITS OF THE INVESTMENT PLAN?

 

The main advantage is certainly our strategic location. Our commitment to large-scale investments is a sign of confidence in the future of the port which will translate in more efficiency and a better level of service. When we took over the port the average waiting time at anchor was 28.5 hours and today it’s less than 9 hours.

 

Another important aspect is that we have completely changed our approach to customers. The new management’s focus is to understand their needs and build long-lasting relationships. We are the main port of Southeast Europe and this provides us with a very good starting position. Our approach is not to dominate but to create partnerships and become the partner of choice for business in Southeast Europe. Our position will be stronger and the Port increasingly connected. After the completion of these works, the capacity of the container terminal will be 1.3 million TEUs which will more than double our capacity. We are also looking for strategic investors to further develop the container and conventional cargo.