Marinas could replace some Israeli beaches

Herzliya Marina  / Photo: Dov Greenblatt, החברה להגנת הטבע

Planning authorities are being asked to approve six new marinas for luxury yachts because of an acute shortage of berths.

Six local municipalities in Israel have asked the Ministry of Transport to support its efforts to receive planning approval for the construction of new marinas while other cities want to expand some of the eight existing ones, due to a severe shortage of berths for luxury yachts and other sailing craft.

The six cities that have applied for planning permission to build the new marinas are Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, Nahariya, Haifa, Hadera and Netanya. In addition Rishon Lezion, Kiryat Yam and the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council are considering applying for planning permission. The National Planning Commission is currently discussing the matter.

But the Ministry of Environmental Protection is vehemently against the plans pointing out that Israel only has 196 kilometers of Mediterranean coastline with only 50 kilometers of beaches open to the public. Opponents claims that marinas for a handful of wealthy people would be at the expense of beaches for the public at large.

The Ministry of Transport argues that the absence of berths means that many Israelis must moor their boats overseas in Cyprus, Greece and elsewhere, while foreign boat owners are unable to moor their boats in Israeli marinas and vacation here.

A letter written by Minister of Transport Miri Regev recently to Minister of the Interior Aryeh Deri was recently seen by "Globes." She wrote, "Since 2016, berths in Israel have been completely full. Israeli citizens who own boats are forced to search for available moorings around the Mediterranean and according to professional sources we are talking about 1,500 boat owners."

The issue raises socio-economic questions about the allocation of Israel's limited coastline. An estimated 1% of Israelis have a license to own boats, presumably for Israel's wealthiest socio-economic ranks. On the other hand, Israel's beaches in the country's cities are often packed to capacity, at least they were before the Covid-19 pandemic, and many see the freedom to use these beaches as a basic public right.

However, Regev argues that over 750,000 yachts sail in the Mediterranean, but very few come to Israel and the country is missing out on major tourism income. She also insists that marinas do not only serve the wealthy but are a gateway to the sea for "tens of thousands" in a range of popular marine sports as well as the fishing industry. In addition, she says, the marinas provide jobs for dozens of people and indirectly for hundreds.

Regev wants 7,150 new berths by building six new marinas and expanding existing ones. Netanya Mayor Miriam Feinstein and Hadera Mayor Zvi Gendelman are among those pushing for the new berths.

But Minister for Environmental Protection Gila Gamliel is opposed. She supports the professional opinion of her senior officials, which rejects the pressure from city mayors and wealthy yacht owners and their economic arguments and insists that more marinas will damage the precious and dwindling coast and violate the public's right to enjoy the beaches.

She said, "I'm strenuously opposed to adding new berths which would serve a very limited public of mainly the wealthy with means at the expense of the public at large and the environment. We won't agree to harming the basic principles of distributive justice and the environment. Allocating areas of the coastline to a small population at the expense of the general public is a social injustice."

The Ministry of Environmental Protection calculates that each new marina takes 500-700 meters of the coastline so that six more would use up 3 kilometers or 6% of Israel's 50 kilometers of public beaches, and that the new marinas would be instead of the highest demand city beaches. The Ministry argues that only those marinas should be approved that won't harm popular bathing beaches.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) said, "In these times when coronavirus is harming the health and finances of all of us, the State is promoting the construction of six new and large marinas, which will cost an estimated $100 million each for a total of more than half a billion dollars from the pockets of each and every one of us. This plan contradicts the main principle of the TAMA 1 plan by which, the coastline belongs to everyone, and presents to us a development in which the many will be harmed while only a handful will enjoy the resource that belongs to the public at large."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on September 30, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Herzliya Marina  / Photo: Dov Greenblatt, החברה להגנת הטבע
Herzliya Marina / Photo: Dov Greenblatt, החברה להגנת הטבע
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