Israel on Wednesday officially inaugurated a new port terminal in Haifa Bay, the first of two recently built private port terminals that are expected to fuel competition, decrease import costs, and present a boon for the Israeli economy. Almost all of Israel’s international trade is handled via maritime routes and the Haifa port is the busiest shipping hub in the country, managing approximately half of all freight.
China’s state-owned Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG) won the tender in 2015 to operate the commercial shipping facility for 25 years, an arrangement that stoked controversy in Israel and abroad. The project’s proximity to Israel’s submarines, among other issues, raised security concerns, especially after reports revealed that neither the cabinet nor the National Security Council had any input on the deal. The project also raised the ire of the US which sometimes docks military vessels in Haifa.
The new Haifa terminal, built by two Israeli companies, will allow large shipping vessels of about 400 meters long carrying some 18,000 containers each to dock in Israel, the Transportation Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday, and will provide unloading and loading services, shortening their times.
Israel has been able to handle smaller vessels carrying several thousand containers, and has been experiencing severe traffic jams at seaports, driving up prices for goods — everything from household products, raw materials, and automotive parts.
The delays cost the Israeli economy approximately NIS 700 million ($218 million) every month, according to a Channel 13 report two weeks ago.