NEW YORK (Apr. 28)
The three-week-old strike by licensed merchant marine officers in Israel has had serious effects on the world-wide operations of the Zim Lines, Israel’s largest shipping company. But although Zim announced in Haifa today that it was suspending its profitable container services in order to hold down losses, spokesmen for the Zim Container Services in New York told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the ships will continue to sail.
However, Joseph Merante, vice-president for marketing and sales, admitted that schedules were “disrupted” and the ships were loading only cargoes booked before the strike. New bookings are not being accepted and the company has stopped advertising sailing dates in trade publications.
Uzi Shaham, an official in the operations department, explained that the strike has been selective so far and that only ships at Israeli ports have been tied up by their officers. He said the company was “taking precautionary measures to preserve flexibility in case the strike should widen.”
An example was the “Zim Hong Kong” which arrived from the Far East enroute to the Mediterranean but was turned around and rerouted to the Far East. The “Zim California” will also be turned back to preclude her being tied up at an Israeli port. Zim Container Services operates seven container ships in world-wide service.
MERCHANT MARINE IN DANGER
According to reports from Haifa today, Zim has already dismissed 30 officers and about 100 more will soon get dismissal notices. It is trying to sell five old ships and plans to lay-up 10 others if the strike continues. The company has also suspended its new building plans.
Yehuda Rotem, director general of the Zim Lines said at a press conference in Haifa yesterday that the company had a “long financial breathing spell” but the present crisis threatens the very existence of the Israeli merchant marine. The striking officers are under heavy pressure to return to work. Capt. Yeshayahu Groman, a spokesman for the officers union, admitted that the union was not strong enough to bring about what he described as “the house cleaning” desperately needed by the merchant marine.