The Manufacturers Association of Israel urged Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz to take responsibility and bring order back to the Ashdod Port to avert the collapse of the facility before the start of the winter season. "The situation at the Ashdod Port is catastrophic," said Zvi Plada, chairman of the Sea and Air Transportation Committee at the Association. "Ship owners are threatening to abandon the port, while the Transport Ministry and the port's management are not acting swiftly to find a solution for the crisis." Plada added that there were delays of between 20 and 24 days in which ships were anchored and couldn't access the ports to offload due to a lack of port personnel and equipment - delays that cost import and export companies millions of shekels in storage fees, late fines and cancelled orders. Furthermore, he said, that 50 percent of the main equipment at the port was paralyzed and the port was not operating around the clock. Plada warned that the situation was poised to get much worse over just a number of days as the summer comes to an end and the busy winter season starts. In response, the Ashdod Port blamed the high traffic in recent days on the high volume of imports prior to the High Holidays and the rerouting of ships from Haifa to Ashdod because of renovation work at the Haifa facility. The Ashdod Port said the waiting time for ships was five days rather than the three weeks claimed by the Manufacturers. Four months ago, the Manufacturers, together with the Shipper's Council and the Chamber of Shipping, held an emergency conference to provide recommendations and solutions for the problems in Israel's sea ports system, which were presented to Mofaz. Relations with export customers have already been strained this year as workers at the Ashdod Port went on strike in February to protest working conditions and again in March over disagreements surrounding the awarding of outsourcing contracts.