'Serious flaws with ports during war'

Transport Ministry says failure to declare state of emergency damaged economy.

By RON FRIEDMAN
May 1, 2007 15:40
1 minute read.
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Less than 24 hours after the release of the Winograd Committee's interim report, a separate public inquiry has revealed grave failures in the performance of the country's ports during the Second Lebanon War. The public committee appointed by the Transportation Ministry's director-general reported Tuesday that the government's failure to declare an "emergency situation" during the war led to serious legal and operative malfunctions that severely harmed Israel's economy. Among the failures that the committee discovered was the absence of an authorized body to regulate the operations of the ports and train services in case of crises and that there were no plans in place to deal with possible emergencies. The committee, headed by attorney Yehudah Tonic, stated that the decision to declare a "special situation" was insufficient to provide the country with the necessary transportation requirements and emergency services. During the war the port of Haifa was regarded by Hizbullah as a strategic target for rocket attacks. Ships that were scheduled to dock in Haifa were redirected to Ashdod. The report found that there was a lack of cooperation between the port of Haifa and the port of Ashdod which led to a breakdown in the country's overall ability to provide port services. The report noted that the fact that 99 percent of Israel's import and export traffic goes through the sea ports makes their proper operation a top national priority. The committee recommended that a national emergency transportation center be formed to coordinate between all relevant parties in case of emergency. They also advised that the Transportation Minister be given authority to declare the ports, trains and ground transportation be made "essential operations" under special circumstances even if the rest of the country isn't placed under "emergency" or "war" status. A spokesperson for the Transportation Ministry said that both the director-general Gideon Sitterman and the Minister Shaul Mofaz have received the report and will comment on it upon further study. The report comes on the heels of recent criticism against the Transportation Ministry by the Israel Manufacturers Association, which earlier today released an open letter calling on Mofaz to personally intervene in what they refer to as a scandal taking place in the Port Authority surrounding the reform plans.

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