New Haifa Port Would Degrade Area Air Quality, Study Finds

City councilor Dr. Einat Kalisch Rotem: 'The upgrading of the existing port can provide the same output that Israel requires.'

Eli Ashkenazi
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A truck removes a Zim-branded shipping container at the Haifa Port.Credit: Bloomberg
Eli Ashkenazi

The establishment of a new private port in Haifa would significantly increase air pollution in the region. This, according to a professional opinion prepared by the former head of air pollution and transportation at the Environmental Protection Ministry for an environmental advocacy organization.

In his report for Citizens for the Environment, Avi Moshel noted that the Haifa Port is already a significant source of air pollution, and that the quantity of emissions produced by the ships are similar to or even exceed those of the area’s oil refineries, which are considered the most significant source of air pollution in greater Haifa.

Moshel was asked to assess the likely affect on air quality of the plan to build a new private port in the city, to be called the Bay Terminal. He concluded that adding more emission sources to the port area could significant raise air pollution levels.

He noted that air emissions from ships or other vehicles at the port have not been monitored. He referenced a 2010 Environmental Protection Ministry estimate of emissions from seagoing vessels in Israel, which “did not take into account emissions from vessels are operated in the port and from the trucks and trains that travel to and from it.”

The Knesset subcommittee for planning and environmental issues at Haifa Bay, which is headed by MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), in a report issued earlier this month, criticized the failure to assess the environmental impact of the operation of the new port being planned. An impact study was carried out on the construction of the new port’s buildings, however.

“The establishment of an additional port without taking the environmental implications of its operation into account is a clear deviation from the policy that is required regarding the Haifa Bay region, of reducing environmental pollution and not adding to it.”

The committee called for “the involvement of the Environmental Protection Ministry in setting strict environmental conditions for the tender and the operation of the Bay Terminal to ensure that environmental quality and air quality in Haifa will not be compromised as a result of the establishment of Bay Port.”

The committee also called on the Transportation Ministry to “promote, as soon as possible, the required legislation mandated by Israel’s signing of international conventions regarding the reduction of pollution from ships and sailing vessels in Israel.”

Haifa city councilor Dr. Einat Kalisch Rotem also raised several zoning and environmental objections to the establishment of the new port.

“The Bay Terminal plan is of dubious importance,” she said. “The upgrading of the existing port can provide the same output that Israel requires.”

In environmental terms, she said, “The port is a major player in the strengthening of the heavy, polluting industries of Haifa Bay and the increase of the production chain of fuel particles, and according to the Israel Ports Company it is supposed to double in size. For that reason, it could have severe implications for the quality of the air and the environment of the whole bay, and for the future of Haifa and the region.”