HAIFA, Israel - The largest foreign-based shipper of freight containers through Georgia's ports was rebuffed Tuesday when it asked to build its own terminal operations on land that it would lease from the Georgia Ports Authority.
Executives of ZIM Integrated Shipping Services of Israel, which is responsible for one of every 10 shipping containers moving through the ports in Savannah and Brunswick, made the request in a closed-door meeting with Gov. Sonny Perdue and Georgia Ports Authority Director Doug Marchand.
"They, of course, are interested in terminal operations, which we do not do," Mr. Marchand said. "They asked, and we said 'no.'"
Mr. Marchand flew halfway around the world to join the brief courtesy call by Mr. Perdue, who is on a weeklong trade mission to Israel.
Mr. Marchand characterized as positive the meeting between the company's senior executives and Mr. Perdue and his aides.
Mr. Perdue said the company's motives were financial.
"They want to pass along those costs to their customers and make a profit on it," he said.
The nonprofit Ports Authority loads and unloads ships calling on Savannah, Brunswick, Columbus and Bainbridge, and its workers transfer the 20-foot metal containers to trucks or railroad cars that take the cargo inland to its destination.
The authority recently expanded its Garden Terminal on the Savannah River, and allowing customers to bypass the services the state offers would eliminate much of the revenue needed to repay the debt on the expansion.
Granting permission for one shipper to lease land in the port for creation of its own freight terminal would likely lead other shippers to demand the same concession, Mr. Marchand said.
But a senior ZIM executive in the company's American headquarters in Norfolk, Va., said that was a misunderstanding.
Capt. Chaim Shacham, the senior vice president for operations, said in a phone interview that the company actually wants to form a partnership with the Ports Authority on operating a new facility if Georgia is the one to build a port in Jasper County, S.C.
"This way, we can guarantee that ZIM will always have a place to bring the cargo that we are moving," he said.
ZIM had initially been granted the right to operate a terminal 20 or so years ago in Garden City, according to Mr. Shacham. That deal was scaled back to just ZIM's operating of a few gates at the terminal under the authority's operations. The gate arrangement ended two years ago, he said.