Photo Credit: Kobi Richter/TPS
Aerial footage of Port of Haifa and industrial zone. Jun 15, 2015.

The new Haifa Bay Port was inaugurated on Wednesday after 15 years of planning and construction, and for the first time, large ships can dock in Israel.

The new port is the first of two new ports recently built in Israel that are expected to enable competition between the ports while revolutionizing the entire Israeli economy, as 99% of its international trade is handled via its seaports.

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The new Bay Port inaugurated today is one of the largest infrastructure projects conducted in Israel. Over NIS 5.5 billion were invested in some of the most advanced infrastructure and operating equipment in the world. The port extends over 840 dunams offshore and opened after six years of construction.

The Chinese Shanghai International Port Group ( SIPG ), the exclusive operator of all the public terminals in the Port of Shanghai, will operate the port in Haifa for the next 25 years.

The US has strongly expressed its opposition to having a Chinese company operate the port and warned that the US Navy would no longer be able to dock in Haifa’s port as a result. Now that it is no longer in the realm of the hypothetical, we will see what happens with US Navy visitations.

Haifa port is also the home base for Israel’s navy.

The opening of the port will enable large ships carrying 18,000 containers or more to dock in Israel while shortening their unloading and loading times. These ships are 400 meters long and 62 meters wide, and especially for them, docks 800 meters long were built, extending 17.3 meters below sea level.

Beyond the new port’s tremendous contribution to the economy, it is an important growth engine for the northern metropolitan area and city of Haifa. The Bay Port’s contribution to the City of Haifa and its surrounding area is estimated at NIS 1.5 billion, and the port is expected to provide thousands of new jobs.

Minister of Transport Merav Michaeli, who recently entered office, stated that “we should be grateful to all those who thought of this vision, grappled with the road bumps and challenges along the way, and managed to navigate and bring us to this moment.”

Former Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz, a driving force behind the massive development, stated that “it is amazing and exciting to see a vision come true. A sea that has become land. Immense work by hundreds of people who implemented the vision of the reform of the ports that will jumpstart the Israeli economy and lower the cost of living.”

Uzi Itzhaki, Chairman of the Israel Ports Company, stated the event that the opening of the Bay Port “is a historical moment for the State of Israel, carrying great promise for the entire Israeli economy and public.”

“The opening of the Bay Port today, and the Southport later this year, will lead to competition, improvement and streamlining of service in the Israeli ports industry, positioning ports in Israel on the top, most advanced rank in the Eastern Mediterranean basin, and the ports world,” he declared.

JewishPress.com News Desk contributed to this report.

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Aryeh Savir is director of the International division of Tazpit News Agency.