Egypt’s Suez Canal features additional lane to reduce waiting time for ships

Posted on 4th August 2015

Egypt’s Suez Canal, which is set to open on August 6, features an additional lane including 35 kilometres of new channels, which will reduce waiting time for ships, a report said.

The new channel also includes a further 37 kilometres of new channels where existing bodies of water were dredged to make way for larger ships, reported The Guardian.

The $8-billion expansion of the canal was expected to take three years but upon orders of President Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, was completed in one year, according to tradearabia news report.

“This is a huge undertaking on a world scale. It has been completed in a time that is frankly astonishing,” said Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, was quoted as saying in the report.

The Egyptian government hired six international firms – including companies based in the US, Belgium, and the Netherlands – to dig new sections of canal and dredge the existing waterways. Those companies worked day and night on six separate sections of the project.

“If you pump enough money at something, of course it can get done. And that’s what happened,” said Angus Blair, president of the Signet Institute, an economics thinktank in Cairo. “If you have the resources to do something, and you have the equipment to do it, you can do it.”

In just one section of the project, more than 1,100 workers laboured day and night between November and July, according to Dirk Draulans, a project manager for the Belgium-based DEME Group. They operated 12 dredgers and at least 40 support craft.

The new lane of the canal, built under military supervision, will further enhance the military’s might.

“The military, represented by the supreme council of the armed forces, the SCAF, is the most dominant political and economic player in Egypt at the moment,” said Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter and an associate fellow at Chatham House.

“[If] they found a formula to redistribute the revenues, I think [the canal] will empower them further financially and [make them] even more powerful in terms of their economic, in terms of dominance over the economic sector,” he told The Guardian.

The anticipation of the opening ceremony of the canal has stirred up Egyptians’ nationalist pride, with front page coverage in the country’s media. At Cairo airport, immigration officials are stamping passports with a special seal counting down to the inauguration, proclaiming “Egypt’s Gift to the World”.

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