Breakbulk opportunity knocks for Greece


( Local knowledge is often the most closely guarded competitive edge in logistics, but a new mood of cooperation across Southern Europe is opening up routes for breakbulk service providers in Greece, according to Cosmatos Group.

Local knowledge is key for recognising project cargo opportunities that others may not see, according to Elisabeth Cosmatos, CEO, Cosmatos Group. The “stay local to go global” mindset has been central to the success of its diversified shipping, freight forwarding, trading and warehousing activities companies over a quarter of a century, she says.

Now, however, the skills honed over the group’s 50+ year history offer a way of tapping into emerging opportunities for Greece’s port network to act as the launching pad for breakbulk services in surrounding countries.

“Increasingly, Greek port and inland logistics expertise in project cargoes is bringing locations in Bulgaria, North Macedonia and neighbouring Balkan countries well within range,” says Cosmatos. The upbeat assessment aligns with the “mutual economic interest” between Bulgaria and Greece cited in January by Bulgarian Defence Minister Todor Tagarev as he announced plans for the two
nations to seek funding from the EU, NATO and others to improve transport connections. They include a new highway between Thessaloniki, Kavala, Alexandroupolis, Burgas and Varna in Bulgaria.

In October 2023, meanwhile, Greek Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Christos Staikouras, sent a letter of intent to European Transport Commissioner Adina Valean proposing a new rail corridor connecting Greece, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania with Ukraine, with a pilot link between Alexandroupolis, Thessaloniki, Ruse in Bulgaria and Constanta in Romania.

While expectations on both plans will be tied to political will, Cosmatos says they catch a regional mood of concern over the integrity of supply chains, freight route diversity and the energy security of states.

Based in Thessaloniki, Cosmatos Group continues to benefit from the draft, shoreside and storage facilities, free zone and routes inland available at Greece’s largest commercial in building its specialized breakbulk services business. Even so, the company’s CEO emphasizes that there are 102 other port authorities in Greece.

Ports ready for action

“Not all of these are relevant when it comes to project cargoes, but those less familiar with the Greek market sometimes think its port story starts and finishes with Piraeus, Thessaloniki and perhaps Heraklion. That is not the case, but one reason for the perception is that many of the other ports are not ready when opportunities arise. Cosmatos makes a business of being prepared on their behalf. Domestically, we evaluate the best ports for any project in which we are involved.”

Elisabeth Cosmatos, CEO, Cosmatos Group

With all ports publicly owned, and stevedoring firms recognizing unionized labour, Cosmatos says that providing a bridge between Greek ports and multinational industrial groups is a multi-sided discipline.

“We are bringing the knowledge of documentation, engineering manuals, load planning, lifting diagrams and detailed analysis that the client expects to the ports, without which they will be excluded from consideration. We also provide the inland route planning and clearance that brings the port into breakbulk supply chain management.”

If the ship calling does not feature its own gear, Cosmatos also brings the infrastructure to do the job – by contracting mobile cranes and experienced drivers, additional lift equipment and specialized road transporters.

“But Greek ports may also lack storage areas and we’ll need to improvise and rent ground nearby on a short term basis, put up fences and lighting and bring in security guards or whatever is needed to establish a secure area. In addition, we are the ones contracting in vessel and cargo inspection services for the client when the time comes.”

Special considerations

Contrary to the expectations of some outsiders, obtaining permits to move special loads through Greece is straightforward, says Cosmatos, although she does not underplay other challenges. Roads are often narrow, and permission is frequently required to cut through private land to avoid height, width or other route restrictions.

“Circumstances can also change. In a recent case, the shipment came two years after plans were completed – by which time one road we were supposed to use was gone and we had to find another solution.”

But with the same challenges facing other coastal states in the region, the role of Cosmatos Group in delivering globally acknowledged service excellence at a growing number of Greek ports is extending the reach of Greek ports northwards. As well as maintaining contractual commitments, and providing precision, transparency and timeliness when information is needed, Cosmatos adds the Greek quality of Philotimo to the mix.

The “untranslatable” attribute involves having the honour, dignity and pride to go the extra mile and get a job done without expecting recognition or reward.

“It’s a cultural thing, but in logistics it means doing what it takes and talking about it afterwards. This is not something you will find on paper, and perhaps it is something that you won’t find in most places in the world.”

It is certainly a different take on “the one logistics stop shop”, Cosmatos observes, and has been instrumental in making Greek ports more competitive with other regional facilities which – superficially – seem better equipped.

The indefinable term is also a reminder that, when it comes to neighbouring markets, Cosmatos Group has no intention of displacing the local experts. “Our purpose is to work with local businesses to create new opportunities,” she says. “As our corporate image also depends on where we buy from, we do that by bringing in the local expertise we need to benefit our overall service offer.”






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