Greece is the word for Chinese manufacturers

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Chinese solar PV manufacturers are considering transferring part of their production lines to Greece in an attempt to circumvent EU anti-dumping duties on their products.

Greek energy news portal Energypress has revealed that representatives of Canadian Solar, Yingli Solar and Huawei recently travelled to Athens, Greece, in order to have direct talks with local PV manufacturers over the prospect of setting up manufacturing collaborations in the country.

Such collaborations, the Greek portal says, could take the forms of manufacturing their products in Greece, renting existing Greek industrial premises and acquiring shares in Greek industries.

The dominant scenario, Energypress says, is for Chinese manufacturers to transfer assembly of their products in Greek territories. To that end, they could rent existing Greek PV industrial bases or build new ones in collaboration with Greek manufacturers.

Information revealed by the Greek portal sounds plausible for two main reasons. Firstly, assembly lines do not require a lot of staff, thus Chinese PV modules can remain substantially cheap and competitive.

Secondly, Chinese manufacturers have access to the Piraeus Port, the biggest port in Greece located next to the capital city Athens. China’s state-owned global shipping giant China Ocean Shipping Co. (Cosco) runs half of the port. Initially, Cosco launched operations in Greece the Piraeus Port’s Pier II in 2009, signing a deal which put €500 million into the coffers of the cash-starved Greek government. Since then, Cosco has converted the Piraeus port into a successful business and has posted remarkable results.

Moreover, in June, Cosco inaugurated Pier III, a new loading and unloading pier at the Port of Piraeus, which now enables the port to handle a total of 4.7 million containers per year. A new €224 million investment is also being negotiated between the Greek government and Cosco, which will permit the Piraeus port to expand further.

Former Cosco Chairman Wei Jiafu, who stepped down last week, said at the inauguration ceremony that the first year at the port the company “had 116,000 containers, in 2012 2.1 million and in 2013 we will reach 2.5 million. Cosco will increase the product flow to Greece, which will be forwarded to Europe by rail, for which we already have expressed our interest in our meeting with the Greek prime minister.”

Wei added that Cosco wished to make another investment in the port’s Pier III that would increase containers to more than 5 million and “make Piraeus the first port of the Mediterranean.”

Should Cosco buy TrainOSE, the state-owned Greek railway company that the Greek government is preparing to privatize, Chinese photovoltaic manufacturers will have also secured a safe passage for their goods in Europe.

In the EU, apart from Piraeus, Cosco also manages parts of the Naples and the Antwerp ports in Italy and Belgium, respectively.

Greek PV manufacturers include Solar Cells Hellas, Silcio Solar Technologies, the Exel Group and Heliosphera.

Developments regarding the ongoing trade dispute between the EU and China will show if China needs to map a new ‘silk road’ for its photovoltaic products to Europe.