The Ashdod Port, no stranger to controversy and allegations of corruption, has sent six employees to Holland to examine a potential tugboat for purchase. The problem, however, is that a model of the exact same boat could have been examined here in Israel, just a few miles south of Ashdod in Ashkelon.
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A delegation of port workers flew to Rotterdam two weeks ago, spending four days in Holland. Four out of the six employees sent on the trip are officials of the union in the port. The purpose of the visit was to examine a tugboat, estimated to cost 12 million euro.
But it turns out that the very same - unique - tugboat can also be found just a few miles south of the Ashdod Port. The The Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline Company recently bought a similar tug for its port at the southern end of Ashkelon, and another similar ship can be found in the coal unloading port at the Israel Electric Corporation's power plant in Hadera. Even though the Ashdod Port could have asked to borrow one of these ships for a short period and test it under the appropriate conditions in the port itself, the management of the Ashdod Port chose to send the delegation overseas, and at the taxpayer's expense.
Port industry sources say the tugboat examined in Holland is not even appropriate for the conditions of the Ashdod Port. The ship has azimuth thrusters, which are more appropriate for ocean-going tugs or for shallow ports, said the sources. The azimuth thrusters are very powerful but come at the expense of maneuverability. This is also the reason such tugs were purchased for the open ports in Hadera and Ashkelon.
Instead, tugboats that are better able to maneuver in crowded port conditions are favored at commercial sea ports, which are relatively well-protected by breakwaters.
The industry sources assume that in the end the Ashdod Port will decide not to buy such a tug in any case, and the trip will certainly have been a waste of money. It seems the trip was more of perk for the employees, they said.
Two months ago, Ashdod Port CEO Shuki Sais complained that Gideon Siterman, chairman of Ashdod Port Company Ltd., was involved in the purchase. Siterman retorted by accusing Sagis of delaying the purchase, which he said could threaten the port's operations, and forced management to stay on schedule regarding the acquisition.
An official in the management of the Ashdod Port said "A professional delegation headed by the vice president of operation, terminals and marine went to Amsterdam for two-and-a-half days to examine a number of types of tugboats, most of which are not found in Israel. This was a professional delegation that included the port's senior pilot, two experienced tugboat captains, an engineering officer with 20 years of experience and a tugboat mechanic."