After three months of negotiations, Israel and China Harbor have reached terms for the Beijing company to begin construction on a private port in Ashdod.
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The two sides agreed on a 3.3 billion-shekel ($900 million) price tag for the project, with final terms dependent on local inflation and the shekel-dollar exchange rate. A signing ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow in the Prime Minister’s Office, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yair Lapid both in attendance.
The fact that Netanyahu himself will appear at the event is a sign of the importance Israel places on the project. The private ports being developed in Ashdod and Haifa are aimed at injecting competition into a sector dominated by two state-owned ports.
The contract also marks a deepening of ties between Israel and China. China Harbor is a candidate to build the projected railway between Ashdod and Eilat or the adjacent Jordanian port of Aqaba.
China Harbor is due to begin construction work by the end of the year, for a port facility that will include a 1,050-meter-long pier north of the existing government-owned port, as well as a 2,800-meter breakwater. The facility will take seven to eight years to complete, longer than the second private port being developed in Haifa because it will entail building a temporary pier for construction-related vessels to dock.
Sources in the infrastructure industry said they expect a decision soon on the contractor to build the Haifa port. There are two groups contending for the project. The first is the Israeli team of Shafir Civil & Marine Engineering and Ashtrom, while the second is Israel’s Solel Boneh (a unit of Building & Infrastructure Ltd.), together with the Belgian company Jan De Nul.
The Haifa port, which is expected to cost as much as 4 billion shekels, includes a 1,100-meter-long pier and a 3,100-meter breakwater that will take five to six years to build.
Separately, the government’s Israel Ports Company is readying a tender to award operating franchises for the two private ports, each for 25 years.