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Israel Business & Economy: Shipping Industry

Zim Integrated Shipping Services, formerly ZIM Israel Navigation Company, is the biggest cargo shipping company in Israel and the 10th largest in the world.

In June 1945, the Histadrut, Jewish Agency and the Palestine Maritime League combined to establish ZIM as a domestic fleet capable of weaning Israel off of her dependency on foreign shipping. Zim is the term used in the Bible to mean ships (Num. 24:24). The company's first ship was purchased in 1947. This vessel was refurbished, renamed SS Kedma, and delivered to the future state of Israel in the summer of 1947.

In 1965, the first Israeli constructed ship, the Esther, was built in Haifa and delivered to ZIM. Throughout the 1960s, ZIM started to turn its focus to cargo shipping and obtained several special-purpose vessels, including refrigerated shipping and oil tankers. During these years, ZIM transported crude oil from Iran to Israel, and oil byproducts from Israel to Europe. In the 1970s, ZIM expanded into the container shipping business.

In 2004, the Israel Corporation purchased 49% of ZIM's shares held by the Israeli government, becoming the sole owner and officially privatizing the company. The purchase deal for about five hundred million Shekels was severely criticized by the press and the State Comptroller of Israel as being undervalued.

As of 2010, Zim's annual operational statistics were as follows: 2.2 million TEU carried in a fleet of 100 vessels with over 600,000 containers of various types. It services 180 ports of call throughout the world with regional headquarters in Haifa, Virginia, Germany and Hong Kong.

Sources: WIkipedia; Bard, Mitchell G. and Moshe Schwartz. 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know About Israel. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.