ORNA HOZMAN BECHOR.
(photo credit: RONEN ACKERMAN)
A quick glance out her office window, quips Orna Hozman Bechor, chairperson of the Ashdod Port Company, provides her with a snapshot of the status of the Israeli economy.
“When we open the window in our office,” she explains, “we can gauge the economic condition of the country by seeing the ships in the port – their size, the number of ships and their range.”
Hozman Bechor wants the view out of her window to remain a busy one. She became head of the Ashdod Port two years ago and is determined to maintain the Ashdod Port’s status as the foremost cargo port of the State of Israel.
“We are the leading port in Israel, both in terms of our activities, and our geographic location in the center of the country. We are Israel’s economic gateway.”
As Israel prepares to open two new deepwater ports in the next two years, the Port of Ashdod, under Hozman Bechor’s leadership, is meeting the competition head-on with major strategic investments designed to improve its capabilities.
“We have decided to invest more than a billion shekels,” says Hozman Bechor, “to deepen our port and lengthen it, so that we will be able to accept larger ships and compete with the new deep-water ports that will be opening. We are also going to bring in new equipment to automate much of the work in the port.”
Hozman Bechor explains that many of the innovations are designed to improve the capabilities of the port workers. One such example is the new simulator for crane operators that will improve their skills, thereby shortening loading and unloading times of goods from large ships. With all of these planned innovations, Hozman Bechor maintains that ultimately, the deciding factor in Ashdod maintaining its advantage over the competition is the quality of service provided.
“In my opinion, the competition is all about service. If we provide better service, our customers will remain with us. It is no secret that know-how and experience are part of the DNA of the Port of Ashdod and its workers.”
Hozman Bechor has a wealth of extensive government and regulatory experience, both as director general of the Interior Ministry and other major government offices, and was appointed to her current position by Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon. She admits that it is unusual for a woman to run government agencies, and even more uncommon for a woman to head the traditionally male-dominated port business.
“When I became head of the Port of Ashdod, I wanted to open the door for women to receive senior positions in management. These things are happening slowly, but they are happening. Women bring very good results to organizations. Women’s leadership is more open to the surrounding environment and the workers.”
She believes that in the future, more women will take on senior positions in the port of Ashdod, and in general, will assume positions of leadership in the Israeli economy.
Hozman Bechor says that the Port of Ashdod, has over the past two years, begun to integrate Ethiopians, women, and other minorities into its workforce, and is continuing this program. She concedes that dealing with the port’s 1,400 workers is a daunting task.
“There are 11 different workers’ committees,” she explains, and “meeting with all of them is very complicated and complex.” Nevertheless, she is optimistic about management’s relationships with the port workers. “I believe in dialogue and communication. In all of my previous positions, I have conducted relations with open dialogue in order to reach understandings and agreements.”
While the port has had strikes in the recent past, Hozman Bechor says that strikes are not relevant for today’s circumstances. The workers, explains Hozman Bechor, are an integral part of the organization.
“Workers understand that the focus of competition today will be the level of services offered to the customer.”
When asked about her vision for the future of the port of Ashdod, Hozman Bechor answers, “I was taught that ‘vision statements’ should be brief and to the point. “My vision,” she says succinctly, “is that the Port of Ashdod will continue to be the leading port in the State of Israel.” With these brief words, Orna Hozman Bechor has summarized her plans for the present and future of the Port of Ashdod. She is confident that she is up to the challenge. ▲
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