Plans to dredge a further 9.5 km channel at Port Said as well as to develop the entire region surrounding the New Suez Canal remain on hold, reports suggest.
The Cairo Post quoted Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Mohab Mamish as stating that the SCA had agreed to contract the ‘Alliance of Challenge’ – the six contractors that completed dredging the new canal – to dredge the 9.5 km channel via the northern access at Port Said.
“We have decided to resume the project with the Alliance of Challenge. The new canal will increase the economic value of the area,” he is reported as saying, adding that dredging was estimated to cost around USD60 million and work would begin “as soon as the New Suez Canal is inaugurated”.
There was no official green light announcement from President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi beforehand at the 6 August opening ceremony of the New Suez Canal, however, despite his statement to the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting that once the expansion opened, “the second phase will entail developing the canal zone and opening the door for investment”.
And spokespersons at dredging contractors Boskalis, Jan De Nul, DEME, Van Oord, and NMDC all told IHS Maritime no official news on the project’s start date had been reported.
The channel, projected to be 18.5 m deep, 250 m wide – allowing vessels to sail in both directions simultaneously – and taking about seven months to build, would enter the Suez Canal 20 km south of its northern entrance. It would not only slash waiting times at Port Said, enabling ships to sail straight through to the canal, but has been promised for years.
But even though there is no official word yet that these ambitious plans will start in 2015, President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s achievement in driving forward the new canal remains impressive. The numbers include:
• 72 km of new channel and bypasses built in 12 months
• USD8.5 billion raised in Egypt to pay for the expansion project
• USD13.2 billion – projected annual revenue by 2023, up from USD5.3 billion today
• 97 ship transits a day by 2023, up from 49
• 11-hour southbound transit, down from 18 hours.
UK Chamber of Shipping CEO Guy Platten commented, “The existing canal has done wonders for world trade, but this extension is akin to turning a B-road into a fully-fledged motorway. The volume of trade moved by sea will double in the next 20 years, and dramatically increasing the number of ships able to move through the canal will facilitate new growth”.