The Sino-Italian shipping collaboration would grow on the back of increasing synergies between Italy's Port of La Spezia and China Ocean Shipping Company (COSCO), executives of the two entities said here on Tuesday.

A new "West Africa Service" was launched this week by COSCON, the COSCO branch involved in container business, in the Port of La Spezia, Italy's second biggest port for origin and final destination of goods which boasts 1.3 million containers per year.

Three COSCON ships stopped from Monday to Wednesday in the La Spezia Container Terminal (LSCT), moving over 4,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit in container transportation).

On Tuesday, the "COSCO Day 2012" was held in La Spezia, located on the northwestern Ligurian coast, to celebrate the new cooperation. Local authorities participated in the event, including the president of the Port Authority of La Spezia, Lorenzo Forcieri.

"We have been stopping over at La Spezia since 2009," said the CEO of Coscon Italy, Xu Hongji. "From then on, relations between us and La Spezia container terminal have become increasingly tight and guided by the synergistic collaboration and mutual respect," he added.

The new West Africa Service will add to a series of weekly services offered by COSCO from La Spezia to North America, the Far East, Australia, West Africa, Israel, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea, the general manager of Coscon Italy, Marco Donati, noted.

"Nowadays, ship owners need more secure ports to develop their activities, and the increasing collaboration between Italy and China marks a new step for the development of this market," he told Xinhua.

"The advantages offered by LSCT are essentially two: first, the Port of La Spezia offers several docking possibilities and quick handling, and secondly it provides a seamless integration between all links of the logistic chain," he added.

One of the leading container terminals in Europe, LSCT has recently announced it will invest 200 million euros (246 million U.S. dollars) in infrastructure, equipment and large vehicles in the Port of La Spezia over the next years with the aim to further increase the competitiveness of the Italian stopover.

The CEO of LSCT, Marco Simonetti, said himself was very pleased of the COSCO new service in a port that is growing in competitiveness by "looking at the future, innovating and improving."

COSCO is the world's second largest shipping company by fleet size. Established in 1961, it owns more than 800 modern merchant vessels with an annual carrying capacity of 400 million tons, covering over 1,600 ports in more than 160 countries and regions worldwide.

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