Cruises Say New Port Fees May Push Them Away

It's now more expensive to dock in Israel's ports than in Venice, which had been the most expensive port in the Mediterranean Sea.

Irit Rosenblum
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Irit Rosenblum

Israel's port fees were increased in October as part of a reform, and travel agents are afraid that this will cause international cruise companies to steer clear of the country.

Due to the reforms, cruise ships are paying tens of thousands of shekels more to dock in the ports of Ashdod, Haifa and Eilat.

It's now more expensive to dock in Israel's ports than in Venice, which had been the most expensive port in the Mediterranean Sea.

A total of 170,000 tourists visited via Israel's three ports on cruises in 2010, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, and that figure is expected to increase significantly in the next few years.

Cruise ships docked in the Haifa port.Credit: Haifa Port

However, representatives of cruise companies say the higher fees may make them change their routes.

The fees on cruise ships were increased in 2010 as part of a general port reform. Until then, shipping fees had been subsidizing passenger cruise fees, said Finance Ministry sources.

There are three kinds of fees - a fee per passenger, which was raised to $13 from $8.50, an anchorage fee and a dock fee. The latter two are based on the ship's size. The anchorage fee is now between NIS 29,900 and NIS 34,500, having increased a few thousand shekels, while the dock fee is between NIS 400 and NIS 2,400.

Plus, there's the border control fee, to cover the inspection conducted at sea, which can be as much as $10,000.

On average, cruise passengers spend two days in Israel - one in Jerusalem and one somewhere up north - and spend $250, not including souvenirs, says Gary Graber, from the tourism company Patra.

Also, 20% of tourists spend a night in Jerusalem or the Galilee and spend an extra $600 to $800.

Due to the sharp increase in fees, cruise companies have started planning a stop in only one Israeli port, as opposed to two.

"NIS 48 times 5,000 travelers is a lot of money, which is saved by skipping a port," he says.

If the companies pass on the full cost to their travelers, the price of a 14-day cruise would become 7% more expensive, which is "a lot of money," he says. A Finance Ministry spokesman responded that the increase was all of $10 to $15 per passenger.

"This is not significant and it won't have the effect described in the complaints," he said.

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