Thursday, December 29, 2011

Let's Explore Ashdod Port

I visited Ashdod Port today with a busload of friends from Efrat. The new Visitors' Center is a 21st century base to learn more about the Ashdod Port – the only Sabbath observing port in the entire world.
The Ashdod port was built over the course of four years from 1961 to 1965 on a stretch of totally empty land. The city of Ashdod actually grew out of the port, as a place where immigrants could move and find work.
Our tour guide told us that Israel needed another port, because Eilat's port was too shallow, Ashkelon's shore had cliffs, Tel Aviv's shore is too densely populated, Haifa's port was too far north for many cargoes. Creating a port in Ashdod, where there was plenty of open space shortened the travel time for many industrial shipments and provided a deep water port, built on the open sea. In order to build the required breakwater, workers sunk 40,000 big "jack" shaped stones into the sea.
On our very interesting family tour, we saw how the port authority created breakwaters, wharf and facilities for modern vessels. The first ship that entered Ashdod's port was on November 21, 1965 – the Swedish ship "Wingland", which carried 11,600 tons of sugar.
After the Six Day War, Israel expanded in many ways, included in its port industry. The giant ship, Queen Elizabeth II, docked in Ashdod. It was a tremendous honor for the port. Israel's President Shimon Peres was the Minister of Transportation then, and attended the ceremony.
As ships became larger and more modernized, the Ashdod port has changed as well. The Eitan Terminal, named after the late IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, who headed the Ashdod expansion project, enabled the port to take in mammoth ships that are like small cities. The larger the ship the deeper the water it needs at the wharf. Our guide showed us the darker blue water of Eitan Terminal, and explained the darker the water, the deeper it is. It measures 15.5 meters deep.
Our guide said that the new ships were so gigantic, they can carry 4000 cars on each. About 2000 ships with varied cargo enter Ashdod Port each year, he said.
Our guide told us that when America introduced the Metal Container to the shipping business, things changed forever. Today a million containers enter the Ashdod port aboard ships every year. Mountains of red, yellow, blue, and green containers were piled up al around.
We drove around the massive port. Twenty-five thousand cars are just sun bathing waiting for 2012 to begin so they can be sold as 2012 cars. A sea of Volkswagons sat parked at the port, plus aisles and aisles of buses, trucks and tractors. A train track ran through the port. In fact, we saw a new train that had just been off-loaded from a ship. We saw giant cranes that carry ashore the containers. They looked like they popped straight out of an erector's set.
We also caught a glimpse of some beautiful cruise ships docked there. Our guide said that 450,000 tourists came to Israel on ship in the last three years.
All kinds of cargo goes through Ashdod port, including agricultural exports, citrus fruit, timber, metals, bulk cargo and more.
Harbors need still water in order to load and unload their goods. Therefore ships do not run their engines when they come into the breakwater. Tugboats go out to sea to navigate the ship and push/pull/move it into the correct direction to its quay. And then they guide the ship back again after about what is usually a two-day stay at the port.
Terror at the Port
Six years ago, terror hit the port. Two Arab terrorists killed ten people. Today a traffic circle has been planted with ten trees in memory of those killed by Arab terrorists.
A Great Family Experience
The trip was exciting and fascinating. There were even family activities that everyone enjoyed. Families are invited to come to the port in groups (rent a bus), but children must be over age 9. No babies. No strollers.
Thank you to Judy Rosenstark who initiated the idea, to the Matnas Efrat for organizing the bus and welcoming the travelers with yummy holiday souvganiyot (donuts), and to our hosts at the port. Well done.

1 comment:

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