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Freight owners whose cargoes had to be unloaded in foreign ports due to October's Israeli ports strike have yet to receive compensation for damages promised to them by the Finance Ministry.

The damages caused by the two-week strike totaled an estimated NIS 30 million.

Many ships were forced, due to the strike, to unload at neighboring ports, such as Limasol in Cyprus, Taranto in Italy or Piraeus in Greece, Eyal Melamud, chairman of the Association of Shipping Users, said yesterday. The treasury then promised to reimburse the shippers, primarily importers, for the cost of transporting their goods from these ports to Israel. The reimbursement was supposed to be paid via the Ports Authority.

Three months later, however, the shippers have still not seen a penny, and yesterday, Melamud sent a letter of complaint to Ports Authority Director-General Amos Ron. In the letter, he charged that his organization had collected and transferred data on every affected cargo and reshipment costs to the authority within a few days after the strike's end, but there has since been no action by the authority.

The authority responded that its finance committee is slated to discuss the matter this week. It added that some 10,000 containers were unloaded in other ports during the strike, and that the compensation will be partly financed through the money docked from workers' paychecks during the strike.

The authority also said it is negotiating with nearby ports in an effort to find one that would serve as an official alternative to Israel's ports in the event of a future strike, so that shippers would not be left frantically trying to find an alternative on their own. In such a case, the authority would cover the costs of using the alternate port, it added.