The Port of Piraeus

The Port of Piraeus is located 10 km to the south west of Athens. The history of the port can be traced to 490 BC, when the Athenians realizing the strategic importance of the deep water harbor, converted it into a military harbor. Shipyards were built and massive fortifications were established to host the mighty Athenian fleet, thus turning the harbor into one of the most powerful naval bases in the Aegean Sea. The splendor of the port reached its zenith during the Athenian Golden Age, in the Classical Times. After the Peloponnesian War, Piraeus too suffered the same fate as Athens and fell to the control of Sparta. Some of the fortifications were razed to the ground, warships were burnt and the famous fortifications were pulled down. The port of Piraeus then went into a long age of decline suffering, during the Byzantine Era and the Venetians. The city even lost its ancient name and came to be known as Porto Leone (the Lion’s Port), a name attributed by the Franks. With the arrival of the Ottoman Turks in 1456, the port of Piraeus came under their occupation and remained unused, except for some minor commercial transactions. Following the creation of the Modern Greek State after the Greek War of Independence and with the establishment of Athens as the capital of the Greek State in 1832, the port of Piraeus entered a new phase of growth and development, turning the small town of Piraeus into a hub of industrial and commercial activity. Piraeus was then the centre of transportation and economy for all Greece. The proximity of the port to Athens, its prime geographical location in the Aegean, the construction of the Athens-Piraeus Railway line and the creation of the Corinth Canal in 1893, all these provided a tremendous impetus to the development of the port, making it more strategically important than ever. Massive works were undertaken in the port. Dredging operations commenced, permanent dry docks, new buildings were added and facilities were modernized. A Port Committee to control the construction and maintenance of the port was established in 1911. For the efficient management of the port, the Port of Piraeus Authority was established in 1930 and contributed to the development of the port. The Second World War caused a setback to the developmental activities and both the port and the city suffered many damages, but after the war, restoration works were undertaken and new facilities were added after 1955. Today, the port of Piraeus has emerged as the largest port in Greece and Europe. It is the third largest in the world as regards passenger transportation and carries about 20 million passengers annually. The central port offers ferry services to nearly all the major Greek islands. The passenger port has made several advancements with an aim to improve aesthetics and to offer a high quality service to the passengers. The western part of the port is used for freight services. The port tops the eastern Mediterranean ports in terms of cargo traffic. Besides these, the port of Piraeus has many other superlatives to its credit. It is the largest marine-based shipping centre of Greece and also the focal point for commercial shipping in the country.