by Symela Touchtidou @stouchtidou

Total surface area to be built: 300,000 m². Total capital invested: €150 million.

New logistics projects in Greece currently under way, mainly in Attiki and Thessaloniki, have mobilized €150 million and will create 300,000 m² of new facilities, according to a survey by the GEOAxIS chartered surveyors.

Two main factors are driving this trend: the disinvestment of the debt crisis era and the rapid growth of electronic commerce, further nurtured by the movement restrictions imposed due to the pandemic crisis.

Konstantinos Haniotis, president of the Hellenic Institute of Logistics Management

Acknowledging not only the potential but also the challenges faced by the industry, the Hellenic Institute of Logistics Management recently organized the 4th virtual International Logistics Forum to discuss innovation, the development of human resources and the competitiveness of investments.

Skills, professional certification, city logistics, last mile delivery, electromobility, online collaboration tools and warehouse automation are the main topics the industry has to deal with to ensure robust and sustainable growth, as Konstantinos Haniotis, president of the Hellenic Institute of Logistics Management told Greek Business File, in an interview published in the March/April 2021 issue.

Why should an investor choose to invest in Greece?

Greece has already a place on the map as a freight hub from the Far East to Europe, thanks to the growth of our two ports, Piraeus and Thessaloniki. Piraeus has become the first port in the Mediterranean. Our aim is to keep up the growth, developing land transport infrastructure (the railway network is key) and freight management systems, that is cargo transport, redistribution, storage and last mile delivery services.

Pireaus port, source: Enterprise Greece

How can this be achieved?

The Thriasio story is such a story. It is about the interconnection of freight transport (of the containers coming from the Far East) with a logistics center that will manage the freight flows.

So does Greece need more logistics centers?

Thriasio has been in the plans for 20 years and is not yet operational. For now, Greece has just the logistics center of Piraeus, through Cosco. In the country, there is very small progress in the field of logistics management.

Thriasio Logistics Center map

Why is that?

For starters, we were not ready to manage the containers that started arriving in the country. We did not know how to create added value. At the end of the day, what is important is not just for a cargo to arrive at Piraeus port and then be picked by another ship and transported to another location. In such a case there is added value just for the port, i.e., just for Cosco. The important is to have the connection with trucks and trains, making deliveries within Greece and to Europe. To some extent, this is already happening, thanks to outbound logistics and inland transportation. And the creation of large distribution centers would greatly benefit the effort to create added value for the country.

Warehouse technology trends, source: Flock Freight

The government has announced initiatives that will set the regulatory framework in the field of logistics. Will they help?

Clearly, there are several open issues in the field of logistics. The licensing process and the land use framework are very important. You cannot have serious infrastructure and serious investment when the landscape is not clear about what one can do, where one can do it and how interconnected they will be with the infrastructure. And by infrastructure we do not mean just the road and railway networks, but also the information systems and networks.

Warehouse technology, source: Kenco

Greece has achieved milestones in the field lately. Logistics Way was awarded for the Amazon Sales Achievement Program, and Microsoft decided to build new datacenters for a Microsoft Cloud region in the country. Does this mean the country is building a strong high-end logistics ecosystem?

Technology plays a very important role in today’s logistics. The example of Amazon (a company that started from technology and has moved to logistics) shows that the competitive geographical advantage of a country or of a company is not enough if not supported by technological background. In my opinion, for Greece to achieve added value, the companies must adopt new technology and change their operating model from the 1980s model to the 2020s model. In other words, a complete change of strategy is needed. None of these, neither the Thriasio alone, nor the Piraeus port alone, nor the individual technological achievements give us an “overall solution”. They are intermediate stages for the development of added value. Our goal is to achieve maximum involvement of human resources, technology and warehouses in the country. The fact that the containers are coming to the port of Piraeus is a very important step. But it is just a first step.

Aerial photo of the port of Thessaloniki

What are the conditions for the industry to become more competitive?

There must be incentives for companies to digitize. There should also be an upgrade of the fleet vehicles. More than 80% of the transports are done by trucks. Most of them have been around for decades. This is another link that is missing from the chain. Technologically upgraded warehouses and last mile delivery services must also be provided. At the end of the day, every investor looks at two things: the geographical location and the stability of a country (i.e., the political risk). These are prerequisites. Beyond that, there must be the human resources, technologies and infrastructure that will make the investment productive. The positive thing for Greece is that it has entered the map thanks to its geographical location, mainly for supplying Southeastern Europe. We can become the Amsterdam or Rotterdam of the South, we are moving to this direction. But in Rotterdam there is not just the port. Behind it there is an entire industry that brings added value to the country. This is what we are starting to build in Greece and now we are in the first stages.

You can read the full article on the logistics industry in Greece in the March/April 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here.