Ashdod, Haifa ports reportedly hit by labor slowdown

Importers and exporters were reporting yesterday that an unauthorized labor slowdown at the Haifa and Ashdod ports have left 33 ships stranded as they wait to be loaded or unloaded. On normal days, several ships are waiting to be serviced by the ports, but in recent days the number has grown to 22 at Ashdod Port and 11 at Haifa, industry sources say. It appears the reason for the slowdown is a decision by the Finance Ministry’s wages commissioner’s insistence that both of the two pilots at any shift be present at the port. The practice until now is that one can remain on call at home. The new directive has been put in place in Ashdod and is about to be implemented in Haifa. “Soon the ports will be paralyzed,” said Yoram Sebba, president of the Israeli Chamber of Shipping. ‏(Daniel Schmil‏)

Island airport not in offing for now, aviation chief says

A proposal to build an airport on an artificial island offshore Israel won’t happen anytime for the foreseeable future, Giora Ram, director of the Civil Aviation Authority, told a conference yesterday. “I don’t believe there will be an island in the [Mediterranean] sea for at least 20 years from today,” he said. “If the government wants one it should establish an authority with a budget and staff and tell them to come within two years with documents that explain whether its feasible, where and how. Until now I haven’t heard from them.” Ram said Israel does need the planned airport at Timna near Eilat, for which development is getting underway. He added that if Israel does sign the Open Skies aviation pact with Europe, there will need to be an airport that competes with Ben-Gurion International. ‏(Zohar Blumenkranz‏)

Capital markets see inflation rising to 2.5% over next year

The capital market sees inflation over the next 12 months running at 2.5%, which is near the top of the government’s 1% to 3% target range, the Bank of Israel said in a report released yesterday, basing its figures on yields between inflation-indexed and non-indexed bonds. However, the average forecast by commercial banks and economic consulting firms is for just 1.8%, which is close to the midpoint of the range that the bank aspires to for inflation. The central bank said the money supply rose 2.1% in March to a record NIS 131.6 billion, capping an exceptional 15.5% increase during the most recent 12-month period. ‏(Moti Bassok‏)

Qualcomm CEO Jacobs to visit in May

Paul Jacobs, CEO of Qualcomm, is scheduled to arrive in Israel next month to speak at celebrations in Tel Aviv on May 21 marking 20 years of the company’s operations in the country. Qualcomm is the world’s largest chip maker for smartphones and is now the third largest semiconductor manufacturer overall after Intel and Samsung. The company employs 270 people at its research and development center in Haifa and 420 people in Israel overall. In the last three years Qualcomm has purchased three Israeli companies: iSkoot Technologies in 2010 for somewhere between $60 million to $80 million, DesignArt Networks last August for $140 million, and EPOS in November for between $20 million to $30 million. ‏(Orr Hirschauge‏)

InSightec wins coverage from key insurer

InSightec, a 48%-owned subsidiary of Elbit Medical Technologies, said yesterday it had been approved for coverage in treating pain due to bone metastases by the U.S. federal agency Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ExAblate, the treatment applied using focused ultrasound guided by an MRI scanner, is a system developed by the company that won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last October. ‏(Yoram Gabison‏)