"Is Israel a Sea Country?"
When many of us were going to arrive in Israel, supposed, looking at map, that we will use the sea in action. In fact, besides well-known tourist Eilat located at the Red Sea, many cities of our country are located at the Mediterranean coast. But, as it looks paradoxical, I hardly get to the beach three times during the summer season, though it takes 20 minutes to walk to. Some people forget such a kind of relaxation, they prefer pools, there are no waves and the water is fresh unless chlorinated. And for some reason here along the coast no high-speed ships run with tourists and locals, as it takes place in other countries with sea borders. The Jewish are said not to love sea. Is it true? Let us talk about it
Yuri Dedov, the deep sea captain, Ashqelon
I lived in Israel not for a long time, I arrived five a half years ago. But after repatriation I understood the troubles of the sea transport and fleet, and got discouraged. And after a period of time I wrote and proved the project “High-speed coastal passenger transportations in Israel”. I am not a quite typical expert for the country; in addition to the international certificate of captain I also have the diploma of economist. I think for us it is necessary for to establish the regular passenger links by sea with the route Ashqelon - Tel Aviv - Haifa. Economically it is profitable, because the coast line of Israel cries out to be used for passenger transportation and earning. The country chokes in traffic jams, and establishing the comfortable trains cannot cause a refusal for choosing the third way by sea. As I get objections and arguments that along our coast there are strong and constant athwart wave, I make myself responsible and declare that there is a decision. This is the use of catamarans, two-hull hips, they are built in the Far East and in Asia with quality. By the way today two-hull ships are built in such a way that they can be transformed in some hours into storm-boats, and for Israel it is not out of place.
When I came to the Israeli experts in this area with my project, all of them very seriously considered my offers, even examined me, the questions gave me imagination I deal with the real professionals. We discussed all details which would be necessary for carrying out to start the project. Now it is a business for investors only who are ready to invest money.
I am sure, that Israel has to revive the fleet. And it is able to do it with the help of development of the semi-state shipping companies, cooperation of the private shipping companies and creation of the oceanic fishing fleet. That will give the country thousands of workplaces, make active scientific and technical potential, attract new tourists and bring multimillion incomes. As I speak about necessity of developing the fleet in Israel, I think less about romanticism of long voyages, but in parallel it necessarily exists at work of fleet. I mean amounts of goods of different purposes delivered by the foreign ship owners.
The government must wake up. We have the sea country. We have a direct outlet to all the world oceans. We should not pay for transiting via the Suez Canal. Besides theses of the founding fathers of the country we have to remember Churchill’s aphorism: “Only that country can be considered as a power which owns one of the most advanced fleets”.
I suppose that the question has reached his point in changing the sea concept of our state. Pay attention to Japan, Singapore. 60 % of their budgetary receipts come from businesses connected with the sea. Are they more nautical countries than Israel? Let me doubt.
Yevgeniy Leybovich, the former seaman with 17-year experience, Qiryat Ono.
We used to be the sea power. The Meridors (our politician’s parents) had the second world company of refrigerator shipping. It is not a matter of bygone days; it was in the 1960-70s of the previous century. Israel had its own tankers to the end of the 1980s, I navigated on one of them, and we carried oil from Iran until Khomeini came to power. Ofir Brothers owned that tanker company. Their ships touched at Eilat port, and wherefrom the oil was pumped over the pipes to Ashqelon where other tankers were filled up which carried the "black gold" further to Europe. I still remember how we carried to Israel tanks from England during the war against Egypt, during that navigation there was a terrible storm, one tank got loose, started moving along the deck …
Now it turns out that all transportations are served by charter-parties. The Israelis are said not to love the sea. Probably. The Jewish love their family, and leaving for a long navigation, they have to leave it for a long time.
Looking back, I can tell, that I am pleased with the years of my sea career. I visited 69 countries all over the world. Once we came to a stop at St. Helena Island, where Napoleon was banished to. If to consider, I was one of few people who saw all the three death-masks of this Great Emperor. One of them is on this island, the second is in the Palace of Invalids in Paris, and the third is in Telavi, Georgia, in Chavchavadze family museum.
Dani Kupershmidt, the deputy of Haifa municipality, the representative of “With You and for You” movement.
Israel has the outlet to the three seas: Red, Mediterranean and Dead. I consider it as a very important strategic advantage for our country. However in my opinion, our government incorrectly uses these strategic opportunities.
Earlier the transport fleet entirely belonged to the state, but then due to the privatization it became private. In Israel there are 10 very rich families which have collected all the sea transport in their hands. It threatens with serious problems in critical situations. In case of armed conflicts the navy should cooperate in close contact with the civil fleet. However a private owner is not obliged to keep any interests of the state, he is interested only in the profits, and therefore ships can be sold to any foreign buyer. I think that such strategic companies, which the sea transport concerns, may not be privatized. All over the world the countries with sea borders have national fleets which mostly belong to the state.
I have lived in Haifa for 15 years and I love our city very much. All the life in Haifa is connected to the port; it is a very powerful and influential structure, central strategic point of the city and all Israel. Through this sea gate of the country thousand tourists come to us, containers with property of new repatriates come here, here numerous ships unload necessary goods for industry and life. Finally the aliya has brought a plenty of the experts of various industrial structures of the sea field. Development of these structures is an employment for thousands of our people.
Haifa residents love the sea, they spend much time on the city beaches. I head the sport commission in the city’s municipality. We actively develop water sports: surfing, canoe and kayak. The big center of paddling sports operates. In sports festivals thousands of children take part, it is a really impressing show. Haifa residents grow up from their childhood in contact to the sea.
Ruven Din-El, the former deputy director general of the former port administration in Israel.
No doubts, Israel a sea country, it is possible to say, a sea power. And it is not a matter whom the ships belong to, which bring us cargoes. Israel’s land frontiers do not function, it is impossible to deliver anything through them by truck or train. Carrying goods by air is firstly expensive and secondly there are restrictions of weight and size. There is a way by sea left. Israel’s ports are a sea gate of the country.
At the end of the last week in structure of ports there was a great reorganization. On the night of Thursday the port administration has ceased its existence as a state organization. Instead of this structure which owns the grounds, piers, harbors, port enterprises, the four separate state-public enterprises are organized: the ports of Haifa, Ashdod and Eilat, and the company of Israel’s ports. The only state structure administration is transformed into the state-public organization in which the part of the shares belongs to the works committees. The company of Israel’s ports will dispose of the real estate of ports, and act as a general contractor renting all the capital and transmitting it to subcontractors which are these separate ports. It has become like the landlord of all the ports. A duty of the new company is development and disposal of available capacities and real estate.
During the reorganization nobody was dismissed. Certainly, some workers who have reached the corresponding age will be retired on pension but now all of them are passing into the new structures. If earlier the port administration was a closed cartel, now ports are separate companies, each will have own budget and money. It should lead to a healthy competition between the companies, I do think that it will not be aggressive, because the costs are regulated by the government. If earlier the ports had opportunity to close the sea gate of the country with going on strike, now the risk of it has sharply decreased because getting independent of each other. A day of strike in Israel’s ports caused economic damage of 400 million shekels.
I need to notice that ports are very profitable companies for the country. In 2004 Israel received half-billion shekels of net profit from their operation. Really, it is a considerable sum.
And what about the fleet … The Israeli ship owners have the commercial interest, many ships work under other flags, because, for example, in Cyprus the taxes are lower. The main thing is that, cargoes and goods will be delivered to the country, the port will be integrated with other types of transport inside the country, and duly unloading of ships will be organized. It allows the industry to work without failures, and promotes prosperity for Israel.
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