Israel looks to end monopolisation of country’s ports

  • Government pledges to issue tender for privately-owned port in bid to end dominance of Ashdod and Haifa

  • Contingency plans already in place in event of strike action

The Israeli government has pledged to end the dominance of the country’s two major ports, Ashdod and Haifa, by issuing a tender for a privately-owned seaport in the near future.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Reuters that by introducing private piers it would increase competition within the Israeli port sector, resulting in improved services whilst helping prices to drop across the board.

Port unions in Israel are among the most powerful in the country with its 2,400-strong workforce earning double that of the average public sector worker. Go-slow tactics and work stoppages have become notorious at Israel’s state-owned ports.

However, until now, the government has been reluctant to take action in fear of the situation escalating any further given that as much as 99 percent of Israel’s trade is seaborne.

With sector reforms on the horizon, port unions have made it clear that they oppose the government’s plans, which could lead to further industrial action at Israel’s docks. However, the Israeli transport ministry has already begun making contingency plans and has already held a number of meetings with foreign firms in regards to hiring workers to stand in for striking dockers. In addition, Naftali Bennett, economics and trade minister, has even explored the option of Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) personnel taking their place.

According to the JOC, the two ministries will also look at diverting container ships to Israel Shipyards and the Port of Eilad for the unloading and loading of cargo, while transport minister Yisrael Katz is attempting to push through legislation that would outlaw strike action altogether.

“If the workers don’t obey the law, we’ll certainly need to adopt measures to ensure the ports’ operations,” Katz, who oversees the running of the nation’s ports, told the JOC.

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