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Egypt opens Suez Canal extension
August 6, 2015, 4:45 pm

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sisi officially inaugurated the new Suez Canal on Thursday. The expansion of the existing shipping lane, along with the opening of the new lane, further cements the Suez Canal as one of the most important and valuable canals in the world. 

World leaders and dignitaries from the business world and Egyptians from all walks of life turned out to witness the historic event.

Dr. Sultan Ahmad Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and head of the UAE-Egypt Liaison Office, congratulated Egypt’s government and people on the completion of the new Suez Canal. “We would like to congratulate the leadership, government and people of Egypt for this monumental achievement that has brought into fruition the strategic vision of President of Egypt, Abdul Fattah Al Sissi. His unwavering insistence that this project is finalisd in one year, truly reflects the resilience of the Egyptian people,” he said in a statement.

Egypt unveiled a major extension of the Suez Canal that President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has billed as an historic achievement needed to boost the country's ailing economy after years of unrest.Egyptians wave the national flag in front of a military vehicle to celebrate the Suez Canal opening in Tahrir square, Cairo.  

Al Sissi, wearing his ceremonious military uniform and trademark dark sunglasses, flew to the site aboard a military helicopter and immediately boarded a monarchy-era yacht that sailed to the venue of the ceremony.

The yacht was flanked by navy warships as helicopters and fixed wing aircraft flew over. Al Sissi, standing on the vessel’s upper deck, waved to well-wishers and folklore dance troupes performing on shore.

The new section, built at a cost of $9 billion and funded entirely by Egyptian investors, runs part of the way alongside the existing canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

"It's an achievement for the people who managed to fund it as a national project and accomplished it through perseverance and hard work," Al Sisi's office has said.

It involved 37 kilometres of dry digging, creating what is effectively a "second lane", and widening and deepening another 35 kilometres of the existing canal. It will cut the waiting period for vessels from 18 hours to 11. By 2023 the number of ships using the canal will increase to 97 per day from 49 now, the government hopes.

Facts about Egypt's 'new Suez canal'

The canal, opened in 1869 after almost a decade of work, has been a main revenue earner for Egypt and a 20th century symbol of independence.

The pan-Arabist president Jamal Abdul Nasser nationalised the canal in 1956, which was until then run by the British- and French-owned Suez Canal Company, sparking the Suez crisis in which Britain, France and Israel invaded parts of Egypt.

The waterway has continued to play a key role in global commerce and is an important route for oil traffic.

In 2013, 4.6 per cent of global oil and petroleum products passed through the Suez Canal or the SUMED pipeline that provides an alternative route from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, according to the US Energy Information Agency.

In 2007, traffic through the canal amounted to 7.5 per cent of global maritime trade, according to the World Shipping Council.

The 72-kilometre long expansion is projected to cut the waiting period for ships from 18 hours to 11 hours and allow two-way passage.

It was built in less than a year for about $9 billion, mostly financed by investment certificates sold to Egyptians.

The project consists of 37 kilometres of new, parallel waterway and 35 kilometres of deepening and widening of the existing canal.

A maximum 49 ships a day can pass through the canal at present. The Suez Canal Authority says the expansion could almost double the number by 2023.

The government hopes the project will more than double revenues from Suez Canal tolls, a key income generator for Egypt, from the $5.3 billion projected for 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023.

Experts say it is not yet clear, however, what impact the improvements to the 192 kilometre waterway will have on world trade.

Source: Gulf News

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