The Ashdod Port.
The Ashdod Port. Photo by Ilya Melnikov
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Four companies have expressed interest in operating one of the new ports Israel is planning to develop in competition with state-owned facilities, the Transportation Ministry said Monday.

The four are Terminal Investments Limited of The Netherlands, Germany’s Eurogate, International Container Terminal Services Incorporated of the Philippines, and France’s Ballore Group.

While all four are among the world’s leading port operators, promising strong competition in the bidding, the Israel Ports Company, which is organizing the tender, had expected more candidates to enter.

The government is counting on the new ports, which are slated to begin operations next to existing facilities in Haifa and Ashdod by 2019, to provide badly needed competition that will bring down prices of imported goods. Labor unions at the state-owned ports, however, are fighting the plan.

“Port reform is in full swing,” said Transportation Minster Yisrael Katz. “We have received four good proposals from global companies ready to come to Israel. ... The two new ports will compete with existing ports, bringing thousands of new jobs and lowering the cost of living.”

The four companies now face a pre-qualification period over the next several months before they are asked to make formal bids. Construction is due to get underway next year.

TIL, which is 65%-owned by Mediterranean Shipping company and the rest of Global Infrastructure Partners, operates 23 maritime terminals in 18 countries. Last year it moved some 265.6 million tons equivalent units, or TEUs, main it the world’s sixth-largest port operator.

Eurogate operates 11 terminals, most of them in Europe, and is ranked ninth among terminal operators. ICTSI operates in Asia, Latin America and Africa, where it has 19 ports. It is the 18th-largest operator in the world. Ballore operates principally in Africa, with 12 terminals. It isn’t among the world’s top 20 operators.

Under the government’s plan, Israel Ports will erect the ports’ basic infrastructure, such as dredging and docks, while the operators that win the tender will finance and develop the operating elements, such as cranes.