Pharmaceutical logistics companies in Greece have had to work hard and innovatively to emerge from the debt crisis; focusing on leveraging international connections and maintaining quality to stay profitable. Now however, major new international investment into the port of Piraeus stands to put Greece back on the world logistics map.

“Piraeus is becoming the gateway to Europe. In light of the acquisition, it is important to note that Piraeus is no longer a Greek port, but an international one.”

Stefanos Agiopoulos, DHL

John Kandylis, CEO of Greek logistics market leader Olympias, explains that the ravages of the debt crisis in Greece have not left logistics players unscathed: “The main impact we have experienced on the logistics side of the operations since the capital controls started was liquidity; companies lack liquidity and fail to meet their obligations. As a result, finding partners that have credibility and reliability has become an extremely difficult task.” Stefanos Agiopoulos, country manager at DHL Global Forwarding, Freight Greece tells how DHL leveraged its international connections to navigate through the crisis: “[We are] part of a real global network of which we are a very active member. We worked hard throughout the crisis and ensured that we connected ourselves to the cold-chain network to stay abreast with the latest developments.”

Both Kandylis and Agoipoulos highlight the importance of maintaining a high quality of service during such a period of instability, Kandylis highlighting that “it is very important to focus on quality … we have managed to upgrade all our services to TAPA level; this in combination with the GDP and HACCP certifications that the company already boasts completes the pyramid of quality, security and optimization.” Agiopoulos feels that DHL’s global network is what sets it apart in terms of quality, pointing out that “whether our customers are looking at DHL Greece, DHL Singapore or DHL Germany, we make sure that there is the same high standard of service and quality.”

This dedication to quality is especially important when it comes to pharmaceutical logistics, Kandylis noting that “pharmaceuticals are a very demanding product, mainly due to their fragile nature, and their transport calls for high specialization and responsibility.” Agiopoulos underscores this feeling of responsibility, proclaiming that DHL is “cognizant that pharmaceutical products are going into the improvement of human life and therefore we ensure that quality conditions are at highest standards within all stages.”

Since 2009, flagship international investments into Greece have been few and far between, due in large part to the country’s spiralling debt crisis and political instability. This makes the purchase of the Port of Piraeus by COSCO Shipping, China’s largest shipping company, in August 2016 stand out as a show of faith in Greece as a country with the infrastructure, location, and resources to become a major player in global logistics. Indeed, the port’s newly installed managing director, Fu Chengqiu has ambitious plans to turn Piraeus into one of “the world’s top 30 container ports by 2018,” serving as a strategic link between Asia and Europe.

For logistics players implanted in Greece, this show of faith is clearly a boon. DHL’s Agiopoulos is bullish on the potential of Piraeus as a logistics hub, stating that “Piraeus is becoming the gateway to Europe. In light of the acquisition, it is important to note that Piraeus is no longer a Greek port, but an international one.” Agiopoulos goes on to say that imports from China, including pharmaceuticals, “can travel by ocean freight to Piraeus port, cross-dock afloat the containers, and be directed overland to be able to reach their final destination in Europe, decreasing travel times by seven to nine days.”

Writer: Patrick Burton