Queues increase to enter Israeli ports

The number of ships waiting to enter Israeli ports is growing, even though operations at most ports were continuing. Capacity has been reduced as the Israeli military prepares for an expected land, sea and air-based move into Gaza.

Heavy rocket barrages in the south of the country has caused the closure of the smaller Ashkelon port, which is the nearest terminal to Gaza.

The port of Ashdod has imposed restrictions on the transport of hazardous materials which has resulted in slower transits.

At least three cargo and dry bulk ships carrying cargo bound for Ashdod had stopped in waters nearby. Three more vessels, including an oil tanker and a container ship, were heading for the port on Saturday.

Some 13 ships – comprising cargo, container and dry bulk vessels – were currently moored inside the port of Ashdod.

Further north, at least three laden dry bulk ships were waiting off Haifa, which along with Ashdod make up Israel’s main commercial port.

Haifa, which handles multiple cargo segments, said on Sunday October 15th that it was working continuously and also throughout the weekend. It stated that “the activity has been reinforced to the maximum possible, within the operational and manpower limitations, in order to receive cargo of all types, including cargo that was diverted from the direction of Ashdod”.

Global shipping line MSC said last week that it had been experiencing increased waiting times at Ashdod. It said that these were a result of increased security checks and labour shortages.

Wait times for ships docking in Israel have traditionally been much longer than in other ports, and this has seen the government undertake privatization and the opening of new ports in a bid to increase competition and efficiency.

Marine war insurance rates in the sector are up approaching 1,000% since Hamas launched its attacks on southern Israeli settlements on Saturday October 7th. Cover provisions for Ashdod were being reconsidered, although Reuters, citing industry sources, said that Haifa cover for the moment was unaffected.

The Marshall Islands registry, one of the world’s top shipping flags, last week raised the security level for Israel’s ports and its territorial waters to their highest. “Threat of collateral damage to merchant vessels has increased significantly,” the registry said in an advisory.