By DANIEL KENNEMER
Haifa port has been allowed to expand its emergency work force by 200 workers to allow the facility to continue its recovery and increase the number of ships handled, the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry said Monday.
Minister Eli Yishai said Israeli ports could boost their efficiency during the crisis by adding workers, while also using the Port of Eilat to its full potential, transferring workers from Haifa to Ashdod and handling insurance issues.
Yishai led a meeting Sunday of representatives of all sectors affected by developments at the ports, at which leading Israeli shipping company Zim was said to be willing to send more of its ships to Haifa in order to relieve the burden on the Port of Ashdod.
Ashdod Port Company chairman Iris Stark said that, due to the round-the-clock labor of dedicated port employees, Israeli trade was "almost entirely" spared damages from the crisis.
Since the initial Hizbullah attacks, the Ashdod port has handled 235 ships, including 91 container carriers and 69 general cargo ships, and expected to receive another 31 ships over the coming week, aided by the arrival of workers and equipment from Haifa.
Separately, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce demanded Monday that China Shipping bring containers that were dumped at the Greek port of Piraeus to their final destination in Israel "immediately," provide a timetable for their delivery and compensate Israeli importers for the delay. Zim containers on the same ship arrived several days ago, the federation said, noting that both companies' containers were originally due in Israel on July 17.
In response, China Shipping Agency Israel general-manager Isaac Kohn said the company was doing its utmost to serve its clients, and stressed that China Shipping was the only foreign company operating in the Port of Haifa during the fighting. One of its ships, the CSCL Qingdao, was turned away by the navy after three attempts to dock in Haifa under rocket fire, while another ship already in port stayed to finish unloading and load new cargo despite the threat.
The containers in question will only be able to leave Piraeus when a Zim ship visits the Greek port on August 11, following the unexpected cancellation of a call to the port by another Zim ship on July 27, Kohn said.
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