Ashdod Port – The Port Authority

Reserve Admiral Moshe “Shiko” Zana talks about his role as CEO of Ashdod Port, highlighting the importance of Israel’s largest port and its plans for the future. 

Ashdod Port is a government-run port used to provide logistical services including storage, cargo loading and infrastructure facilities. Until recently, Ashdod Port has been the largest of four ports in Israel. With two new ports recently opened by commercial entities, the pressure is on for Ashdod Port to maintain its status as a key part of Israel’s economy.

Naval operation

Overseeing the operation of Ashdod Port is CEO Moshe “Shiko” Zana, a retired Admiral in the Israeli Navy. In addition to over thirty years of service, Zana also has an MEng degree in systems engineering and a BSc in mechanical engineering. Before taking up the role of Ashdod Port’s CEO for the last couple of years, he has worked for Caterpillar Israel on a global construction project.

This varied background has benefited Zana in his current position. “I hold a challenging role as the professional and managerial authority who integrates the orchestra that operates the port. I strive to meet the goals and tasks required to motivate the employees and the managers. My managerial approach is focused on harnessing people’s strengths” Zana states.

Zana is clear about the major challenges that Ashdod Port has to face. “We have two main challenges right now. The first is the global shipping crisis affecting congestion in the ports in Israel, and the second is new competition ever since two new private ports were opened this year as part of comprehensive reform in Israel’s ports” he explains. “The port is government-owned but functions and operates for all intents and purposes like a commercial business in terms of expenses, income, and investments” he details.

According to Zana, ports are an important part of Israel’s economy. “Israel is like an island country as almost 99 per cent of our imports and exports come from ports. We are the biggest port in Israel, not far from the Suez Canal and near the centre of Israel” he further explains.

To improve efficiency, technology and innovation is the key to staying ahead of the competition. “We have almost completed the development of Pier 21 for containers and grain, to receive mega-ships with up to 24,000 containers. By doing so, we are adapting ourselves to the large ships that will arrive in Israel and to the competition” he further details.

Concerning issues with congestion and queues, steps have been taken to address delays that have caused worldwide issues with shipping. “We have increased our waterline manpower strength and improved the maintenance and the competence of the equipment to better respond and service the cargo we receive. Currently, container ships do not wait for more than 48 hours to unload” Zana confirms.

A community project

Zana has a clear idea of the employees he wants to join Ashdod Port. “The main qualities we look for in employees and managers that we recruit are the ability to work in a changing environment under a lot of pressure and the ability to initiate and think out of the box” he explains.

For Zana, Ashdod Port is an important part of Ashdod’s community. “One of the main goals I set for the company for the next few years is to transform the port into a green port that preserves its environment and at the same time interacts and operates in synergy with Ashdod city. The port has been a financial, social and vocational anchor of the city and is one of its main symbols” he states. “The close connections developed between the port, the city, and the community are very important to us, and we support educational, social, and environmental initiatives run by NGOs and civil society organizations in the city and maintain a dialogue with the public on environmental issues” he further details.

One example of Ashdod Port’s community projects is the Sea Kindergartens program for children, helping them learn more about sea life. “Sea Kindergartens is based on the educational approach of meaningful outdoor, out-of-class studies of sustainability and the environment. Twelve kindergartens have already joined this cluster, and they enjoy a specialized program that includes a monthly outing to the seashore” he says.

Future innovation

Ashdod Port is utilising local business connections to further innovate processes behind the port. “This year, we established a technological incubator, in collaboration with 500 Global, a leading venture capital promoting innovative ports and shipping technologies. The incubator allows start-ups to transform their ideas into profitable products” Zana states.

The company is also investing approximately $700m in technology, with each development designed to make the port’s processes more efficient. “Our flagship project is developing pier and rear dock 21, into a semi-automatic logistical rear pier, with remote-control cranes using an almost fully automated computer program. Everything will be operated with large and suitable cranes that will both unload the ships semi-automatically and transport containers to their destinations” Zana explains.  “We have been promoting system-wide and state-of-the-art infrastructures, including a computerized container port that operates with an innovative automated system. New automated gates that electronically scan merchandise, license plates, containers, and biometric identification of drivers have been installed at the port’s entry points.” he further explains.

Zana believes that an innovative approach is symbolic of his nation’s drive. “Innovation is important to us because we are a start-up nation. We are looking to make our port a green port, we have invested a lot of money to take care of air and sea pollution. We aim to become more efficient, more green and more lean” Zana details.

While Ashdod Port has to face increased competition from new ports, Zana is not concerned and believe the company has the tools to take on what these new ports have to offer. “It is a very challenging time for us but we are not afraid of increased competition!”

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