JERUSALEM, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Israel has opened a new
shipping port along its Mediterranean coast that will bring much
needed competition to a sector plagued by delays and boost the
country's standing as a regional trade hub.
The 5.5 billion shekel ($1.7 billion) Bay Port at Haifa,
which will be operated by Shanghai International Port Group
(SIPG), will enable larger classes of cargo ships, carrying
18,000 containers or more, to dock in Israel.
The country is selling its state-owned ports and building
new private docks in an effort bring down costs and cut
above-average wait times for vessels to unload. About 99% of all
goods move in and out of Israel over sea and an upgrade is
needed to maintain economic growth.
Warming ties with neighboring Arab countries are also
creating new trade opportunities for Israel and Haifa is well
placed to become a regional hub.
"I'm sure we can leverage this opportunity not just for
local prosperity, but for realizing opportunities and making a
real contribution to our neighbors in the Middle East,"
Transport Minister Merav Michaeli said in a statement after the
port was inaugurated in a low-key ceremony on Wednesday.
Another new port on the Mediterranean coast is due to open
in Ashdod by the end of the year, to be operated Swiss-based
Terminal Investment Limited.
($1 = 3.2045 shekels)
(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Mike Harrison)