JERUSALEM/DUBAI- Dubai's DP World is partnering with an Israeli group to bid for one of Israel's two main ports and to examine opening a direct shipping line between the two Middle East states, it said on Wednesday.
The announcement came a day after Israel and the United Arab Emirates signed an historic agreement to normalize ties, and marks a big development in trade and economic collaboration.
Dubai state-owned DP World, which operates ports from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, signed a series of agreements with Israel's DoverTower including a joint bid in the privatization of Haifa Port on the Mediterranean, one of Israel's two main sea terminals.
"Israel has two ports, the port of Ashdod and the port of Haifa. They are strong ports in excellent locations. If there is an opportunity, there is nothing to prevent us from having a presence there," DP World Chairman Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem told Arabiya TV.
DoverTower is owned by Israeli businessman Shlomi Fogel, a shareholder in Israel Shipyards and a partner in the Eilat port.
Fogel said as a result of the deal, DP World will collaborate with Israel Shipyards on the joint venture that will participate in the tender for the Haifa privatisation.
DP World and DoverTower said they will also examine opening a direct shipping line between the Red Sea port of Eilat and Dubai's Jebel Ali, the Middle East's largest transshipment hub.
"Our work to build trade routes between the UAE, Israel and beyond will help our customers to do business in the region more easily and efficiently," bin Sulayem said.
Israel is selling its state-owned ports and building new private docks in an effort to encourage competition and bring down costs.
Haifa Port will need to be upgraded to compete with a modern one being built in the area by China's Shanghai International Port Group.
Israel Shipyards and Dubai's Drydocks World will also examine partnering in producing and marketing products in Dubai.
(Reporting by Tova Cohen, Ari Rabinovitch and Alexander Cornwell; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Jan Harvey) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +972-2-632-2202; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com@reuters.net))