TEL AVIV (Mar. 31)
Israeli maritime circles are pondering the effects that the reopening of the Suez Canal will have on Israel’s merchant marine and on the future of the port of Eilat, Israel’s outlet on the Red Sea. In the wake of President Anwar Sadat’s announcement Saturday that Egypt will reopen its waterway on June 5, though denying access to Israeli ships or Israeli cargoes, directors of the Zim Lines, Israel’s national shipping company, will meet with political experts next week.
The growth of Eilat which has expanded as a seaport during the eight years that the Suez Canal was shut down, may be affected by the loss of foreign trade that passed through Israel enroute to other destinations. While maritime circles believe the canal fees charged by Egypt may be a factor in reducing the amount of traffic diverted from Eilat, they agree that steps will have to be taken to provide Eilat with modern transportation links to the Mediterranean.
These may include improving the existing highway connections and possibly the construction of an Eilat-Mediterranean railroad. Experts are also expected to recommend the speedy establishment of container services and facilities at Eilat to make that port an attractive alternative to the Suez Canal. Foreign Minister Yigal Allon said today that the reopening of the canal was not a gesture toward Israel but an economic decision that would bring Egypt $1 billion a year.