Mon, Jun 15, 2015 - Page 15 News List

Suez Canal adjunct to debut in August

BIG DIG:The expansion project launched by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is expected to increase revenues from canal business to US$13.2 billion in 2023

AFP, Ismailia, Egypt

A mosque under construction stands on the banks of a new portion of the Suez Canal on Saturday in the Egyptian port city of Ismailia, east of Cairo.

Photo: AFP

Egypt plans to open a “new Suez canal” shipping route in August aimed at speeding up traffic along the existing waterway and boosting revenues, officials said on Saturday.

Dubbed the Suez Canal Axis, the new 72km project is to run part of the way alongside the existing canal that connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea.

It involves 37km of dry digging and 35km of expansion and deepening of the Suez Canal, in a bid to help speed up the movement of vessels, officials said.

“The digging and dredging operations will be completed on July 15,” Suez Canal Authority chairman Mohab Mamish told reporters in the canal city of Ismailia.

A ceremony is to be held on Aug. 6 to inaugurate the project, he said.

“Once the president inaugurates it, vessels will start moving through the new waterway,” Mamish said.

He said 85 percent of the project that is being executed by the Egyptian army has been completed so far.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi launched the project in August last year and set an ambitious target of digging the new canal in one year.

The project is part of an ambitious plan to develop the zone around the canal into an industrial and commercial hub, which would include the construction of ports and provide shipping services.

“The entire project is Egyptian: the idea, the planning, and the funding” and will “once again put Egypt on the world investment map,” Mamish said.

Egyptian authorities raised US$9 billion to build the new canal by selling shares in the project to domestic investors, with private Egyptian companies tasked with its construction.

The new canal is expected to more than double Suez revenues from US$5.3 billion expected at the end of this year to US$13.2 billion in 2023, official estimates said.

The new canal is considered a “national project” that aims to rejuvenate an economy battered by years of political turmoil since the ouster of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Officials gave a quick tour of the new canal to journalists.

Several sand-excavating machines, cranes and bulldozers were operating on both sides of the new waterway.

Heavy digging machines on large vessels were operating in the waterway and small boats ferried workers from one side of the canal to the other as army helicopters hovered above.

“Since the work began, people here have not slept... One of the biggest dredging process in history is on here,” Mamish said.

He said that of the estimated 250 million cubic meters of soil that had to be dredged, 219 million had already been dealt with.

“It is not only about excavation and dredging. What we are doing is building a safe and secure path for global navigation. We will not allow any vessel to pass through the waterway unless it is secure,” he added.

He said the main idea behind the expansion was to reduce the waiting period of vessels.

“If a vessel waits, it means it has to pay extra money to its crew [and] to the Suez Canal, and [the vessel] takes more time in delivering its goods,” he said. “By building this new canal, we are serving the whole world and international trade... By bringing the waiting hours down to 11 from 22 [hours], this makes it one of the fastest waterways in the world.”

Built 146 years ago, the existing Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes and has been a key source of international trade, earning Egypt billions of dollars in annual revenues.

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