PARIS (Jun. 28)
The Zim Lines, Israel’s national shipping company, is planning to reroute its vessels serving East African ports to avoid calls at Djibouti if that newly established Moslem state bans Israel-flag ships. Djibouti, formerly French Somaliland, became independent on Sunday and immediately applied for and was admitted to membership in the Arab League which administers the boycott of Israel.
Although there was no immediate notification that Djibouti will close its harbor to Israeli shipping the leaders of the new Arabic-speaking republic have hinted strongly that they would. Zim closed its office there and the last Israeli personnel have departed by sea. A decision by Djibouti to refuse docking facilities to Israeli ships would be in line with conditions set by Saudi Arabia when it offered financial assistance to the impoverished 9000 square mile former colony.
Djibouti is strategically located near the Straits of Bab el-Mandeb which link the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. It is an important fueling port for ships enroute to Israel’s Red Sea port of Eilat. Israeli ships can still use the nearby Ethiopian port of Massawa which, like Djibouti, is only four days’ steaming from Eilat. But if the Ethiopian authorities decided to ban Israeli ships, the nearest fueling port to Eilat would be Mombasa, Kenya, 14 days away.