The coronavirus pandemic that broke out almost a year ago had a dramatic impact on our lives and it appears that it also impacted the consumption habits of Israelis. If we assumed that due to the high unemployment rates private spending would take a hit, based on the number of containers that entered Israel we can assess that it actually increased.
The closure of aviation due to the breakout of the virus and the dwindling number of daily passenger planes that had also been carrying cargo, led to an increase in cargo transport via the sea. Ashdod Port, which continued its vital activity without interruption, broke an operational record with the unloading of 1,584,000 (TEU) containers in 2020. This is a historic all-time record at Israel's ports. The overall scope of goods that entered the port was valued at about 108 billion shekels. Based on these numbers it appears that contrary to the assumption that the coronavirus would reduce the scope of imports, it appears that private consumption was not harmed. In fact, compared to 2019 there was an increase of a few percentage points.
If we take into account the drop in the scope of imported vehicles, this even strengthens the assumption that personal imports increased significantly, especially when it comes to online purchases and orders from international websites. Based on the data of SHVA, which operates a national credit card payment system, online buyers prefer international websites and there was indeed an increase in this area compared to the previous year.
The increase in imports also brought about unprecedented demand for containers. The increase in commerce and purchases of consumer and food products by the public that was forced to remain at home during various lockdown periods, along with a significant drop in the use of aviation, turned the sea into a central artery for transporting goods and cargo.
Orna Hozman Bechor, Chairman of the Board of Ashdod Port, notes: “The port's activity during the period of the coronavirus crisis highlights the expertise and dedication of the port employees, as well as the complexity and importance of the national responsibility of operating a seaport in Israel. The aviation shutdown at the start of the coronavirus crisis left Ashdod Port as almost the only source of oxygen for the State of Israel. I am extremely proud that we succeeded to maintain continuous passage of goods, so that no shortage was ever felt".
Shiko Zana, CEO of the Port Company, adds: “We set an annual record for the scope of containers unloaded, while also breaking an all-time record about two months ago – when in one day we unloaded over 5,000 containers at Ashdod Port. The recent data proves that there has been improvement in the efficiency and quality of the equipment. Thanks to our employees, despite the expected harm caused by the coronavirus pandemic, we were able to overcome this period of crisis and uncertainty and achieve great things. We will continue to provide optimal service to our customers".