Turkish Ship Held in Ashdod Port for Three Days in Labor Dispute

Cargo ship and its crew held up due to argument between exporter and chairman of port workers' committee.

A Turkish cargo ship and its crew were held at the Ashdod port for three days at the end of the week following a dispute between an exporter and Alon Hassan, chairman of the workers’ committee at the port.

According to the exporter, Moshe Shelly, Hassan spotted his own export company’s staff helping load scrap metal on the Turkish ship even though the job is supposedly reserved for the Ashdod port’s own workers. In response, Hassan allegedly instructed the port’s workers to stop loading the ship. Under the circumstances, Shelly asked that the ship go on its way without his export cargo, but the ship was barred from leaving the port.

After intervention by the Turkish firm that owns the ship, the vessel, the Deniz Yildizi, was allowed to leave the port yesterday, but only after Shelly’s entry permit to the port was confiscated. Reacting to the incident, importer Moshe Rosenstein, who was a party to bringing the ship to Israel, told TheMarker: “It is intolerable for the workers’ committee, however strong it might be, to decide that a ship cannot leave.

“Where would we hear of such a thing,” he added, “where a workers’ committee sets Israel’s trade terms? You don’t imprison a ship, you don’t stop international trade, you don’t stop an international crew. [The workers’ committee] crossed the line.”

Referring to the soured relations between Israel and Turkey, particularly since the fatal confrontation between Israeli naval commandos and a Turkish flotilla trying to run the naval blockade of Gaza in 2010, Rosenstein added: “If there is something still working between Israel and Turkey, it’s trade, so we should also let that collapse?”

The ship docked at Ashdod port on Tuesday to unload iron construction materials and then to take on iron scrap metal before the dispute broke out. “Last Thursday, we were almost finished loading,” said Shelly, the exporter, “and just then Hassan came and saw the equipment operated by our people.” At that point the argument was said to have erupted, with Hassan claiming that Shelly was working on the ship contrary to accepted practice. Shelly denied this and said he was only arranging the cargo, although other sources at the port said he had been caught in the past violating accepted procedure.

TheMarker was unable to obtain a response from Hassan, but the Ashdod port responded that operations are carried out there only by the port’s own workers, in part for safety reasons, adding that the exporter, Shelly, had operated equipment in violation of his own personal commitment to the contrary, and in the process was endangering himself and others at the port. Despite warnings, he did so again on Friday, the port administration said, adding that the ship was allowed to leave after port authorities investigated the incident.

Ilya Melnikov