Inputs on the War risks and Situation in Ashkelon and Haifa Ports

Ever since the current escalation taking place between the State of Israel and Hamas, during the period 12-18 May 2018, the Israeli Home-Front Command has issued 55 alerts on missile attacks on Ashdod's marina area (located 38.1 Km from the Gaza Strip) and 200 Alerts on the city of Ashkelon (located from Gaza Strip). The cities of Haifa and Eilat which are located at the distance of and 221 Km, respectively from the Gaza Strip, have not been alerted even once.

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With more than 90% percentage of interceptions of the launched missiles the 'Iron Dome' provides relative security which together with shelters and the following of the Home-Front Commends' instructions, enable the ports of Ashdod and Ashkelon (mainly operating as tanker's port) to operate during the current period.

The daily working plan of Ashdod Port for the 19th May 2021, lists 19 vessels which are under loading or discharging operations at the piers out of total of 32 vessels located at the piers themselves and about 50 vessels waiting on anchor, out- side the port, 17 of them are bulk carriers, which arrived at Ashdod Port during 12-18 May 2021.

The matter of a tanker chartered under a voyage charter and the influence of a military escalation in Israel has been dealt with under a Supreme Court Judgment in civil appeal 7802/11 TRANS KA TANKERS Vs. VITOL EBERGY S.A. In that matter, under a fixture dated 26.07.2006 the vessel Bereket Va had been chartered for the carriage of 5,000 tons of methanol between the load port of Marsa al Brega Libya to the discharge port of Marmara Turkey. The agreed laydays for loading the cargo was 10-15.8. 2006. However, the Owners kept on postponing the loading of the cargo, arguing that they should be exempt from the damages caused due to the postponement because during that time the vessel was located at the east of the Mediterranean Sea and was subject to the military activities which took place during that period, between the State of Israel and the Hizballah located in Lebanon.

This argument was rejected by the Court which held that the above military activities had began on 12.7.2016 and was perfectly known to Owners on the date of the fixture (26.7.2016). Therefore, under such circumstances, if the Owners wished to determine in the agreement that these events should be considered as a risk which should exempt the Owners form its liabilities, it should have been drafted in specific wording in the charter party agreement, and the general exemption of "all going well, weather and safe navigation permitting" can not be considered as covering known military activities, especially when considering the importance of the time schedule for the arrival, loading and discharge of the vessel under a voyage charter party. Therefore, the Owners were found liable by the Court for the damages which were caused due to its delay in loading the cargo.

Currently at the present time, as mentioned above, Haifa and Eilat ports are not in the range of any threat, and Ashkelon and Ashdod ports are operating, under the supervision of the Israeli Shipping and Ports Authority, and the Israeli Defense Forces and the Israeli Home Front Command.

The author is the managing partner at Harris & Co. Maritime Lawyers.
[email protected]
Contents of the article are only for general information and do not constitute a legal opinion.

By Adv. Yoav Harris & Adv. Jonh Harris
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