ASP HaifaAs a result of recent government decisions, the Ministry of Transport together with the Ministry of Finance concluded negotiations regarding the future organizational and operational structure of the sea ports. This resulted in the establishment of independent government companies to operate the main ports of Ashdod and Haifa, generating conditions for real competition. In line with general government policy, one of the main objectives is to increase the role of the private sector regarding the operation of the ports by gradually privatizing the companies.

On December 25, 2006, the Israel Ports Company presented to the Minister of Transport, its proposed fifty year Strategic Master Plan for the development of port infrastructure along  the Mediterranean coast. The plan was developed over the last year and one-half as a joint effort by an international and local team that included port planners and designers, marine engineers, economists, strategic planners, environmental specialists, traffic engineers, industrial engineers and others. The plan provides a vision for the long term, as well as short term, development of Haifa and Ashdod ports in a phased approach based on demand growth, with special emphasis on introducing increased competition and participation of the private sector in the Israeli port industry. It also considered the development of a third Mediterranean port in the event that proposed development at the existing ports is constrained by policy.

Israel is unique among developed nations in that it depends on its ports to handle 98% of its international commerce. Furthermore,63% of its gross domestic product is dependent on this international trade. As a result, our port infrastructure is critical to Israel's economic development, well-being and participationin the global marketplace. The plan further recognizes the potential to exploit Israel's geographical position as a maritime gateway to the region as the geopolitical climate improves (note transport distances on map below). At the same time, there is recognition of the limited opportunities to develop port infrastructure along Israel's limited coastline as other competing uses occupy more and more of that coastline. The fifty year horizon is therefore critical to assure that development opportunities are preserved for such time as they become justified.

The master plan begins with a definition of planning assumptions, which includes a traffic forecast, description of the design vessel and definition of a variety of other planning assumptions. The local traffic forecast (import/export) was developed by one of Israel's foremost economists based on the results of a complex macro-economicforecasting model. An economist specializing in the economies of various Middle Eastern countries developed a second forecast on the potential to develop gateway traffic to Israel's regional neighbors. The local and regional traffic also includes transshipment traffic, based on existing natural transshipment traffic levels with some growth in the future. The container traffic forecast is summarized in the following graph. The forecast for other types of cargo traffic (general cargo, bulk by grabs and automated bulk) indicates that, for the most part, existing infrastructure can address future demand. The master plan therefore focuses on the development of infrastructure for the handling of container traffic. The local container forecast is based on an average annual growth of 6.9% through 2015, with a long term growth rate of 4.3% through 2055. Including the potential transit and transshipment traffic annual growth rates for the same periods came to 7.7% and 5.2%. The design vessel has been defined as a Suez-max container ship, with dimensions of 380-400 meters in length, 55 meters in width and 15-16 meters in depth. Other planning assumptions included a 2.5% annual growth in existing quay productivity, higher yard stacking and shorter cargo storage periods in the port. In order to allow for competition, traffic growth greater than forecasted, productivity growth less than assumed above and development constraints, the plan aimed at providing the capability of addressing 65% of the total traffic forecast at each port. Based on these planning assumptions, the team concluded that it needed to provide the potential for 4,600 meters of container quay at each of the two ports.

The planning team explored over fifteen development alternatives, looking at the possibility of providing the needed infrastructure by reclaiming outward, dredging inland and developing up and down the coast from the existing ports. None of the alternatives were ideal since they all result in conflicts with other coastal land users, some of which are irresolvable, and have environmental implications, some of which are unacceptable. At the end of the process, the best long term development alternative for each port was identified taking into account these conflicts, environmental considerations and other factors. The preferred development schemes are shown in the diagrams below. The preliminary cost estimate for the above development over the next fifty years is six billion dollars, not including equipment and land acquisition costs.Along with schematic plans for the development of the ports, the work also included an analysis of the implications on inland transport, considering that most cargoes either have to originate inland or be deliveredto an inland destination. While the ports company is not responsible for developing Israel's road and railway infrastructure, the company has identified for the relevant bodies whereand when road and railway improvements need to be made in order to create a smooth, integrated cargo logistics network. The report also takes a look at the railway infrastructure required to handle the potential cargo traffic to Israel's regional neighbors. An economic analysis from a national economic perspective indicates that the optimal timing for the first phase development needs to be completed by 2015. At that time the benefits to the economy would exceed the cost of funding the development. These benefits include both direct savings resulting from reduced dwell time of shipping in Israeli ports, as well as indirect benefits of improved export competitiveness as a result of shorter supply times.

During the course of 2007, the Israeli government will be called upon to approve the plan and decide upon the location of the next stage of development. Decisions will also need to be made in regard to the financial model and the scope of the private sector's participation. The IPC is preparing background materials to assist the decision makers with the process.