Suez Canal

The Super Suez Canal

Egypt has opened a major expansion of the Suez Canal, which deepens the main waterway and provides ships with a 35km channel parallel to it.

The expansion aims to increase the traffic handled by the canal. Egyptians appear divided over the project, with many asking if the $8.2bn spent on the expansion could have been better deployed on improving infrastructure and public services.

The canal is already the fastest route between Asia and Europe and accounts for 8% of the world’s sea trade, according to the Suez Canal Authority. The canal’s improvements, including the building of a 35 km parallel channel, will allow two-way traffic for the first time and reduce waiting times by as much as eight hours for ships traversing the waterway. The construction of the new lane began a year ago.

At the inauguration ceremony in the town of Ismailia, the President, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi appeared in military uniform and sunglasses aboard the El-Mahrousa - the yacht that was the first vessel to pass through the canal when it was built in 1869. Fighter jets and helicopters flew above the ceremony. On the streets of Cairo, banners described the expanded canal as Egypt's "gift to the world".

The government has promoted it as the “rebirth of Egypt.” The Egyptian public paid for it by gobbling up state-issued bonds. And a public lottery was held to determine which ordinary Egyptians would get a coveted ticket to attend its gala opening.

However, revenue from Suez could be hit by an expansion of the Panama Canal, due to be completed next year, which will compete for traffic along the Asia-North America route.

“The New Suez Canal represents an accomplishment by the people of Egypt who were able to self -finance this national project and proved their ability to deliver results through their diligence and hard work,” Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said during a visit to the waterway.

By 2023, authorities say, the number of ships transiting the canal daily will increase to 97 from its current level of 47, and revenue from the waterway will nearly triple to $13.2 billion from $5.3 billion. The estimates are based on a 4% growth in world trade between 2003 and 2014, to 10.4 billion tons from 6.7 billion tons.

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