The port reforms have apparently improved service at the state-owned seaports, one of the principal driving factors behind the moves spearheaded by former finance minister Benjamin Netanyahu who resigned Sunday in protest against the disengagement from the Gaza Strip.
The reforms were implemented in February, after the port workers were won over by means of commensurate financial compensation, and involved turning each port - Eilat, Ashdod and Haifa - into an independent and competing company, albeit still in the public sector.
According to the first-ever released figures, Ashdod Port announced yesterday that in the period March to July 2005, waiting time for all ships was down 77 percent on the parallel, and for container ships by 76 percent.
The port also announced that traffic of all types of ships through the port in January-July increased by 11 percent, and of container ships by 20 percent (in TEU units).
CEO of the Ashdod Port company, Shuky Sagis, said yesterday, "The figures point to a significant improvement in the level of service. This improvement stems from several factors, among them the expansion in infrastructure, increase in wharves, bringing into operation the new Eitan Port, use of advanced technology and taking on a further 100 workers. This is very important news for the port's clients - importers and exporters - and for the whole economy."
However, not everyone was quite so happy with the new port.
The Nesher cement company and one of Ashdod Port's largest customers, claims that service has worsened since the reforms were introduced in February. Nesher claims that the time needed to unload peat coke (a burning material used in cement kilns) had dropped this year to 4,301 tons a day at Ashdod Port, compared to 5,262 tons a day in 2004.
The company added that ships unloading their peat coke at Ashdod had spent some 40.2 days in dock in the whole of 2004, but had had to spend 48 days in dock so far this year.
Sagis said in response that the port company strives to satisfy all its customers, "and the relationship between the port company and its clients is not a subject for public debate."