Ports operation deficient during war

"The declaration of special situation on the home front was insufficient for initiating emergency regulations."

The decision not to declare a state of emergency during the Second Lebanon War resulted in operational failures at the ports and transport network, states a report by the public committee chaired by Adv. Yehuda Tunik. He submitted the report to Ministry of Transport director general Gideon Siterman yesterday.

The report makes no personal conclusions about the ports managers, but the ministry says that they should draw their own conclusions.

The report says that the governments declaration of special situation on the home front was insufficient to fully authorize the authority for the provision of essential services, in view of the fact that 99% of Israels foreign trade is handled by the ports.

The report cited a list of failures:

  • The lack of an emergency contingency plan for the operation of all transport systems.
  • No arrangements, including security arrangements, that would enable foreign ships to dock in Israel without worried about a dramatic increase in insurance costs.
  • The government failed to obtain ships for the transport of basic needs, such as oil, refined oil products, and coal.
  • The unlading of ships was delayed because most ships could not use Haifa Port, because of Hizbullah shelling of the city, and were diverted to Ashdod Port.
  • There were severe problems in the coordination and mutual support between the ports, including the transfer of equipment and personnel.
  • Israel Railways suspended train service in the north, and reduced cargo service to and from Haifa, disrupting shipments.
  • Public transport was curtailed, and even suspended altogether, in some areas, hindering the movement of essential personnel.
  • There was no contingency plan for the operation of just one port during an emergency.
  • Ports infrastructures were deficient, including a shortage of terminals for hazardous materials.
  • There were severe problems with Ashdod Port employees.
  • There was a shortage of storage space for cargo, resulting in heavy charges
  • There was a lack of inventory of refined oil products for some types of fuel for transport.

The report listed several lessons and recommendations

  • Establish an emergency ports and transport authority, anchored in emergency legislation, giving the minister of transport the authority to declare the ports, railways, and public transportation systems as essential services during special situations, even when no emergency has been declared and there is no general war.
  • Establish a national emergency transport center that will coordinate all security services at the ports and shipping, and formulate commercial agreements for the movement of equipment between ports.

    Sources at the Haifa and Ashdod Ports said in response that the report puts the responsibility on the Ministry of Transport as much as on the ports managements. Most of the failures discovered during the war were the responsibility of the Ministry of Transport, and not the responsibility of the ports.

    Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on May 2, 2007

    Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

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