JERUSALEM (Jun. 16)
Israeli shipping interests are buying tankers at inflated prices in order to keep oil flowing in increasing quantities to the new Eilat-Ashkelon pipeline. The success of the pipeline has exceeded the most ardent hopes of its promoters but Israel’s tanker fleet has failed to keep pace with the demand, maritime business circles said here today. As a result, the criteria for buying tankers is not price or size but immediate availability, the circles said. One ten-year-old tanker was just purchased for $10 million, $6 million more than its original price. A 68000 deadweight ton tanker, small by current standards, was bought second hand for $20 million while a brand new 250000 deadweight ton vessel cost $19 million. The Zim Lines, Israel’s largest shipping company, has four 250000 ton tankers under construction at European yards with a combined capacity of 20 million tons of oil per year. That is approximately the tonnage of oil presently being pumped through the Eilat Ashkelon line, but it represents only half of capacity. The Zim tankers will be ready by 1974, according to the company’s managing director, Meshe Kashti. The pipeline hopes to increase its flow to 30 million tons by next year. Its owners are said to regret that they made it 42 inches wide instead of 48. Meanwhile, the tank farms and oil terminal at Eilat are being expanded to double their unloading and storage capacity.