5th anniversary: How New Suez Canal helped boost Egyptian economy, refresh global trade

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Thu, 06 Aug 2020 - 01:45 GMT

A cargo ship takes a test run through the New Suez Canal, July 25, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

A cargo ship takes a test run through the New Suez Canal, July 25, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Stringer

CAIRO – 6 August 2020: Five years ago, the New Suez Canal, one of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s earliest projects, was inaugurated. This new canal is simply a waterway that is parallel to the famous Suez Canal, with the aim of facilitating traffic in both directions and minimizing the waiting time for transiting ships.

 

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The main goal of the Suez Canal, both the original and the new one, is to link the Red Sea in eastern Egypt, through Suez city on the Gulf of Suez, with the Mediterranean Sea in the northern part of the country, through Port Said city, passing by Ismailia city almost halfway.

 

Suez Canal map ready

 

The 35-kilometer New Suez Canal was drilled in a record time as it took only less than a year to be announced completed. Both canals reportedly house 12 percent of international trade, through the huge commercial ships passing through. The new canal cost around LE 20 billion ($1.25 billion).

 

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According to the Suez Canal Authority, the New Suez Canal can accommodate commercial vessels with up to 66 feet vessel draft (about 20 meters), as the new waterway is 24-meter deep and 317-meter wide at water level.

 

In May last year, the newly-built giant container-ship, HMM ALGECIRAS, with a carrying capacity of 23,964 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and 11.6-meter vessel draft.

 

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Goals, benefits

The project aimed at reducing the waiting time for ships from between eight to 11 hours to only three and reducing transit time to 11 hours, down from 18. It also sought to receive more ships and bring more hard currency to the national income.

 

The authority hopes that the number of ships crossing the canal daily will increase from around 50 currently to 97 by 2023, thanks to the new canal and that the Suez Canal revenues will rise to over 13 billion in the same year – more than double the current revenues – or, precisely, more than 250 percent.

 

How the New Suez Canal reduced waiting time? It did so through helping reduce the number of groups of ships passing through the Suez Canal from two groups from the North and one from the South to only one group from each of the two directions, dramatically cutting passing time to half. Also, the new canal served as an alternative in case a ship suffered an engine failure at the main waterway, so that other the movement of other vessels remain smooth and uninterrupted.

 

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Revenues

Suez Canal Authority Chairman Osama Rabie said the opening of the New Suez Canal has led total revenues to hit dlrs 27.2 billion in five years, state’s news agency MENA reported.

 

On the fifth anniversary of the New Suez Canal launch, he said about 90,000 ships with a combined cargo of 5.5 billion tons transited the canal over this period.

 

Besides its technical and economic advantages, the New Suez Canal has also become the starting point for adopting a comprehensive development strategy for upgrading the entire Canal region, he said.

 

He noted that efforts under way to upgrade the waterway are going on well in line with the set timetable.

 

The navigation reports since the beginning of 2020 until August underlined the key role played by the waterway despite international challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic, he said, pointing out that during this period about 11,250 ships transited the canal with 693 million tons of cargo.

 

The canal's revenues during this period recorded $3.3 billion.

 

Tunnels, bridges

A bright future awaits Sinai after five tunnels below Suez Canal have been built to connect mainland Egypt to the peninsula and the Suez Canal Economic Zone. A network of tunnels and bridges will make the movement of people and goods easier than ever, attracting more investors to the promising area.

 

Suez Canal tunnel
 
Suez Canal tunnel2

 

On April 22, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi witnessed the extraction of a tunnel-boring machine in Suez city, signaling the launching of the Ahmed Hamdy 2 tunnel, connecting the city to South Sinai. Ahmed Hamdy 1 tunnel in the same city was opened in 1981. It is also used to connect Cairo to South Sinai. it was once the only tunnel under the surface of the vital waterway for 38 years. It is named after an Egyptian engineer who was killed during the October 1973 war with Israel.

 

The Ahmed Hamdy 2 tunnel has two lanes with a length of 4,250 kilometers and a diameter of 11 meters and is parallel to the old tunnel.

 

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Two other tunnels in Ismailia were inaugurated in May 2019; they connect eastern Ismailia with western Ismailia in 15-20-minute trip by car at 60 kilometers per hours. Western Ismailia has land borders with Central Sinai, and the tunnels are expected to take Sinai to far better economic and social horizons.

 

The Ismailia tunnels are the largest in Africa at six kilometers in length and 13.2 meters in diameter. Each one is ranked third largest tunnel worldwide in terms of the diameters. They are connected with horizontal passages every 500 meters as a safety measure to evacuate people in case of emergencies. Each tunnel has two lanes, and cost 12 billion EGP. Globally, such projects take five to seven years to be finished, but Petrogate and Concord built them in three years, all by Egyptian staff. Forty Egyptian engineers were trained in Germany on building tunnels.

 

The tunnels are at 70 and 53 meter-deep below Suez Canal. There is an emergency room every 250 meters, emergency passages, stairs and 60-centimetre wide concrete bumpers along the two tunnels. There are antifire systems, CCTV, advanced led lighting system and microphones every 100 meters to guide drivers in case of emergencies.

 

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In the Mediterranean city of Port Said, Arab Contractors and Orascom built two tunnels by November 2019. They shorten the travel time crossing the Suez Canal to 10-20 minutes, instead of waiting for a turn on ferries for days. The Port Said tunnels are 11.4 meters in diameter and are four kilometres long, connected with emergency passages. Up to 2,000 vehicles can cross the tunnels per hour.

 

The six tunnels enjoy top notch security measures outside of the tunnels at the two ends, and inside the tunnels with the most advanced x-ray system. In the Ismailia tunnels, there are 10 checkpoints, four for regular cars and six for trucks and buses.

 

Moreover, five bridges have been constructed above the Suez Canal, crossing over to Sinai to facilitate the transportation of goods between the cities east west of the canal.

 

In pics: historical facts on Suez Canal in its 150th anniversary

CAIRO - 17 November 2019: Egypt celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Suez Canal, which was inaugurated on November 17, 1869 after 10 years of work. The following are key facts on the canal: - The Suez Canal is an artificial double waterway extending over 193 kilometers and connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

 

MENA, Egypt Today Staff, Wael Al-Semari, Al-Sayed Falah contributed to the reporting.

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