Convoys of ships in both directions have passed through the expanded Suez Canal for the first time on Saturday 25 July. The canal has been widened and deepened, adding bypasses on its western side to enable the canal to double its daily capacity from 49 to an estimated 97 ships.
The website of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Yawm al-Sabi announced that the first trial of north-south and south-north convoys, each composed of three large ships, had successfully completed passage through the canal. According to the newspaper, the head of the Suez Canal Authority Muhab Mamish was on board the first ship of the convoy heading to the Mediterranean from the Suez end.
Helicopters and naval vessels escorted the ships as part of a security operation. The Sinai Peninsula, which borders the canal, is a base for Islamic militants who see the canal and the international shipping that uses it as aspirational targets. The most recent attack took place on 16 July when armed insurgents claimed to have fired a missile at a moored Egyptian patrol boat off the northern Sinai coast.
The Suez Canal Authority announced that dredgers have lifted more than 259 million cubic metres of water-saturated sand since the project was announced in August 2014. The official inauguration of the new two-way route is due to take place on 6 August.