The Port of Haifa must include an Israeli component worth at least 20 percent of the total value of a tender to supply and install harbor cranes, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai told the port company Tuesday.
By law, the Haifa Port must clearly inform companies participating in the tender of the condition, without which any proposal would be void, Yishai said.
The ministry's Authority for Industrial Cooperation made a similar demand Sunday, noting that the port had omitted the condition from the tender published, despite legislation requiring it to do so.
"This is exceptional chutzpah," said the authority's deputy director Gabi Golomb. "They did all sorts of tricks as if they had included the requirement, but had not unambiguously informed [contenders] that this is a required condition and that any [proposal by a contender] who does not commit to it would be unacceptable."
In the past six months, the Haifa Port Company carried out a tender to acquire two other cranes, in which 40% of the work was done by Israeli companies, and the Ashdod Port Company purchased two cranes in a tender including 30% subcontracting from domestic industry, Golomb noted.
In the current tender - valued at about â‚¬100 million - the Port of Haifa was seeking to evade the legislated requirement in order to allow an unnamed Chinese company to participate in the tender, Golomb said. The Chinese company does all construction and preparation in-house, and delivers its cranes when they are completely finished, making it incapable of fulfilling the legal requirement. Between three and five European companies participating in the tender, however, would be able to include local industry in the job, Golomb said.
At the authority's request, the Manufacturers Association of Israel located 45 companies in Israel that would be able to carry out the domestic component of the tender, 18 of which were located in the North. The local component would create 500 jobs, the authority estimated.
"At this time, it is upon all of us to strengthen the country's industry, and first and foremost the industry in Haifa and the North," said the authority's director-general Bina Bar-On. "It is unthinkable that the Haifa Port Company - which is a government company - would try to evade its legal obligation to require reciprocal acquisition and domestic subcontracting that could create 500 jobs in the country," she added.
In response, the Haifa Port Company insisted that it had notified contenders of the requirement, and stressed that it "recognizes the importance of promoting Israeli industry."
"In fact, the company is comitted to meet the goals set for it and carry out its legal duties and tasks," the company added, and charged that the authority had decined to engage in "a professional discussion" on the extent of the projects, the impact of the requirement on the results of the tender, the rising cost of the project and delays in the schedule.