Israeli shipping giant Zim suspends operations in Long Beach
Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd., Israel’s largest cargo shipping company, has temporarily suspended operations at the Port of Long Beach, according to an employee in Zim’s Long Beach office.
Though the company has not offered a reason, the decision comes after protests in Long Beach and Oakland by the anti-Israel protest group, Block the Boat, which formed in August and is aligned with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Block the Boat protestors, who felt motivated to organize during this summer’s war in Gaza, have repeatedly made it difficult for Zim to unload its cargo at the ports of Long Beach and Oakland during scheduled unloading days for the past three months.
A Zim employee in Long Beach, who answered a phone call to the office but would not give his name, said that the suspension is “not a long-term thing.” He did not say whether it was the protests that prompted Zim’s decision.
A statement from a company spokesman sent to the Journal did not directly address the issue in Long Beach, stating Zim “never stopped and will continue to serve its loyal customers in the U.S. West Coast.” The spokesman has not yet responded to a follow-up request for clarification.
Art Wong, a spokesman for the Port of Long Beach, confirmed that Zim suspended operations at the port, but added that he was not given a reason. He said that in recent months, protestors often would come to the dock on Saturday mornings in anticipation of an arriving Zim shipment — the locations of cargo vessels are easily tracked on the Internet — only to find that the Zim vessel that was en route had changed course at the last minute.
“I could never tell if it impacted the unloading of the vessels,” Wong said. “The protesters would come, but the ship wouldn’t even be there.”
He said shipping companies frequently change their ports of call at the last moment, without offering reasons.
In Oakland, where Block the Boat protestors also have been active, Michael Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland, wrote in an email, “As far as I know, Zim has no plans for leaving the Port of Oakland.” Asked whether he knows about any temporary suspension of operations at the Port of Oakland, Zampa recommended reaching out to a Zim spokesperson.
Container Management, a shipping industry publication, quoted Lara Kiswani, executive director of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC), as saying, “That the Zim vessel can no longer come to Oakland or Long Beach is one of the biggest wins for Palestinian solidarity in the Bay Area in recent history.” In the same piece, Robert Bernardo, another Port of Oakland spokesman, said that the suspension could lead to lost wages for dockworkers and truckers who only work if there is cargo to unload.
AROC, located in San Francisco, has not yet responded to a request for comment.
Source: Jewish Journal