American Shipper

Israeli shippers call on Olmert to halt shipping lines exodus

Israeli shippers call on Olmert to halt shipping lines exodus

Israel Shippers’ Council Chairman Gad Schaeffer has written to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warning that unless more attention is paid to the country’s failing transport infrastructure more shipping lines will follow the lead of Maersk Line and China Shipping and cease direct Israeli calls.

   Schaeffer wrote that Israeli ports, and subsequently the country’s economy, have for some time faced major disruptions from sanctions, strikes and irregular work routines, all of which cause delays to ships entering Israel’s seaports.

   The consequence, he said, can now be been seen as Maersk Line has announced the end of direct services between Israel and the United States sometime later this year, when it will instead serve the country by feeder, probably via Port Said in Egypt. In addition, China Shipping Container Lines’ has decided to cancel direct Far East/Israel connections.

   “It is needless to note the damage, direct and indirect, to Israeli export, foreign trade and the economy as a whole due to this worrisome process,” Schaeffer wrote.

   “Furthermore, an economic policy that stresses maximum competition in favor of the client, will now leave users with Zim as the only large shipping company servicing the most important lines to Israeli trade and commerce. Assumptions are already being made for a marked increase in marine transport rates due to the current situation.

   “Prime Minister Olmert, I call upon you to make sure that additional companies do not abandon Israeli ports. Ensure, by all means, that regular work routines are the norm in all Israeli ports by addressing all work-related issues and by resolving the infrastructure problems of these ports.

   “Israeli ports must be excluded from the crippling cycle of strikes and sanctions as is the case with all vital services (handling 95 percent of all foreign trade should, by all means, constitute a vital service). The lack of infrastructure is also a cause for work-related delays and congestion.”

   The Israeli government has recently decided to invest about $800 million in port infrastructure, but so far no work has been done as decisions are still pending from the Ministers of Finance and Transport.

   “Please, expedite these decisions. Every day of delay is another day of heavy damage to the Israeli economy,” Schaeffer concluded.