The opening of Egypt’s first two-way canal through the Red Sea–Mediterranean crossing was set for August 6 – exactly one year after first breaking ground on the project meant to bolster the nation’s maritime trade position.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) this week said the multibillion-dollar, 72 km New Suez Canal, built partly alongside Egypt’s 150-year-old 193 km Suez Canal, would double the current daily ship capacity and allow the simultaneous transit of north- and southbound vessels.
The current artificial sea-level waterway, which was one of the world's most heavily used shipping lanes, was currently only wide enough for ships to travel in one direction.
“[The new waterway will] underscore the canal’s position as a major maritime trade route against a backdrop of growing competition,” explained SCA chairperson and MD Admiral Mohab Mameesh.
The New Suez Canal, which was more than 80% complete, with 210-million tons of sand excavated, was expected to increase the capacity of the channel from the current 49 to 97 ships a day in 2023 and enable the direct nonstop transit of 45 ships a day in both directions.
According to the SCA website, it would also reduce ships’ waiting times to three hours, from the current 8 to 11 hours, as well as reduce transit times for the convoy north from 18 hours to 11 hours.
The new waterway would also boost the canal’s revenue from the $5.3-billion generated from the payment of tolls by 16 744 vessels in the 2013/14 financial year to $13.2-billion by 2023.
From the calendar period, January to December 2014, SCA traffic statistics showed that 17 148 vessels, generating $5.5-billion in tolls, had traversed the canal.
From January to April this year, 5 510 vessels had passed through the canal, generating revenue of $1.7-billion.
The canal expansion project formed part of SCA’s ambitions of developing a “Suez Canal Zone” industrial area, catering for a range of sectors such as manufacturing, logistics and ship repair, besides others, along the canal.
With its commercial launch nearing, Mameesh said the SCA would now turn its attention to the “celebration of this achievement” with the Egyptian people and broadcasting “Egypt’s gift to the world”.
The campaign, undertaken by a marketing communications company WPP-led consortium, would culminate in a gala event on the banks of the New Suez Canal on August 6 and opened by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
The consortium incorporated a number of local Egyptian businesses, as well as Memac Ogilvy Public Relations and supported by Memac Ogilvy & Mather, Media Waves, Emeco Travel, JWT, Richard Attias and Mindshare.