Port project marks new achievement in China-Israel infrastructure co-op
Updated: 2015-05-29 14:27
TEL AVIV - China and Israel made a new achievement in infrastructure cooperation on Thursday as Israeli port authorities signed a deal with a Chinese company according the company the right to run a new port in northern Israel for 25 years.
"It (the Chinese firm) is bringing its capabilities to the port's development, and it will of course strengthen the relations between China and Israel. And I am happy for that," Israeli Transport and Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz told Xinhua after the signing ceremony.
The Shanghai International Port (Group) Co Ltd (SIPG) won the bid in late March to operate the new port in Haifa for 25 years starting from 2021. The new port, whose construction is underway, is expected to be completed by 2020 and will be able to handle 1.86 million standard containers, making it the largest harbor in Israel by then.
This is another large-scale infrastructure project in the country gained by a Chinese company after China Harbor Engineering Co Ltd won the bid to build a new port in southern Israel last year.
Calling himself a pioneer in strengthening Israel-China relations, Katz said the SIPG's multi-billion-dollar investment plan to turn Haifa's new port into an international cargo center is "an expression of confidence in the State of Israel on the part of a superpower."
Katz spoke highly of China's initiatives to revive the ancient land and maritime silk roads, saying that infrastructure development will undoubtedly help regional economic development and thus ease tensions and curb conflicts.
Israel is now investing $4 billion to $5 billion each year to upgrade its transport infrastructure and is building airports, seaports, railroad tracks, roads and tunnels, Katz said, noting that he believed there is a high potential for closer Israel-China cooperation in the area of infrastructure.
"I will also let the Chinese companies to get informed so they can compete and I am happy that (Israel-China cooperation) is going in the right direction," he said.
Chen Xuyuan, SIPG chairman, told Xinhua that SIPG will employ its rich experience and technologies in managing ports as well as its long-term relations with shipping lines to develop Haifa's new port into a regional transport hub.
"Investing in Haifa will help strengthen relations between the Shanghai port and other ports along the maritime silk road and form a closer trade network between the Shanghai port and ports in Europe," Chen said, noting that it's a vital step toward SIPG's goal to become a global harbor operator.
Chen attributed the SIPG's winning of the Haifa port's operational right to its own advantages in port operation and China's growing economic strength.
Chen said that under the agreement, the SIPG will invest around $2 billion for building facilities at the harbor and purchasing equipment for the harbor. In the first stage of investment, a 700-meter-long harbor will be built and its length will eventually be extended to 1,500 meters.
Sholomo Breiman, CEO of Israel Ports Development and Assets Company, placed high hope on the SIPG.
"The SIPG is one of the best companies all over the world, and we are looking for such a company to bring new methods of operation to Israel in order to increase the level of service," Breiman said.
Breiman also predicted that the entry of new port operators into Israel will increase competition and help break the monopoly of state-owned companies over the country's ports.
According to official estimations, the new port in Haifa is expected to offer hundreds of jobs directly and generate thousands of more jobs indirectly in the country after it becomes operational by 2021.