Zim Opens New Headquarters

by Peter Tirschwell
The Journal of Commerce
October 18, 2001


Zim-American Israeli Shipping Co. today officially opened its new headquarters in Norfolk, Va., an event that has taken on new meaning because the company relocated from the World Trade Center only nine days prior to the Sept. 11 terrorist attack."Naturally, no one is debating any more whether we had to move or not," said Shaul Cohen-Mintz, president of the company. "Some people said it was like an angel sitting on our shoulder."

Zim, the U.S. general agent for Zim Israel Navigation Co., the world's ninth-largest container line, occupied the sixteenth floor of One World Trade Center, and still had 20 people working out of that office, although only 10 were there on the day of the attack. All escaped to safety.

But Zim suffered heavy computer system losses, and for a number of days its electronic data interchange connections to business partners and the U.S. Customs' Automated Manifest System were down. "Our EDI group did miracles because within one week we had everything installed in Norfolk," Cohen-Mintz said on Thursday.

Zim, one of the last steamship companies with its headquarters still in downtown Manhattan, in April announced plans to relocate to Norfolk. It built a 45,000-square-foot building in an industrial park a five-minute drive from Norfolk International Airport. Twenty-two senior management relocated with the company, as well as a number of others on a consulting basis. Cohen-Mintz said Zim plans eventually to build its staff up to more than 200 at its new headquarters, up from about 160 today.

Virginia is welcoming Zim with open arms. Zim benefited from a $100,000 grant from Gov. Jim Gilmore's Opportunity Fund to assist the Development Authority of the City of Norfolk for site preparation. Zim invested $6.2 million in the relocation, the governor said. Gov. Gilmore was scheduled to be present for the dedication ceremony on Thursday, as well as the mayor of Norfolk, Paul D. Fraim, and other city and state officials.

And Zim appears equally pleased to be there. Cohen-Mintz said the facility is "15 minutes from anywhere," in a quiet and scenic area with a "nice view. "

Last year, Zim was the 15th largest container line serving the U.S. market, handling about 450,000 TEUs, according to the Port Import Export Reporting Service (PIERS) of the Journal of Commerce Group. Like all container lines, Zim is feeling the effects of the economic slowdown combined with a cyclical surge of capacity, Cohen-Mintz said.

"Even if the market is growing by a few percentage points per year, the invasion of new tonnage creates very big pressure on the marketplace, and we see the results daily," he said. "Ships are not full, and there is pressure on rates."

Zim ships have been calling at Virginia Ports Authority terminals since 1985 when it moved its mid-Atlantic load center to Virginia from Baltimore. Zim currently makes two port calls per week.

Copyright 2001 Journal of Commerce, Inc.

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