Egypt has begun digging a new Suez Canal, 72 kilometres long, hoping to squeeze money from it by allowing two-way traffic on the Europe-to-Asia shipping route.
Today it takes at least 11 hours, in the single lane, with passing bays. The aim is to cut this to three hours. The alternative is to ship round the bottom of Africa, many thousands of kilometres longer.
One official said expanding the Port Said to Suez shortcut will take five years. President Sissi said he hopes it’ll take just one year. The existing waterway opened in 1869, ten years in the making.
Now, a score of Egyptian firms are involved, under army supervision.
Those present at the launch of the project greet President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi’s initiative with pleasure, said one dignitary: “He has brought back our smile with this healthy project to develop the Egyptian economy.”
Today, the canal earns Egypt 3.9 billion euros per year, which the ambitious planners project should climb to 10.5 billion euros annually over the next decade.
Not bad for a channel that’s already 145 years old. Its early shareholders were mostly French and British, but President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised it in 1956.
The Arab-Israeli Six Day War in 1967 led to its blockade by Egypt until 1975, and, therefore, the birth of oil-carrying supertankers.
Only Egyptian companies and individuals may buy shares in the new development. The cost estimate is given as three billion euros. The state is offering an up to 12 percent return on investment. Foreign investment suffered as Egypt descended into violence and instability after its 2011 uprising.
An international industrial logistics hub around the canal is also aimed at generating income from the free-flow between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.
Our correspondent Mohammed Shaikibrahim, at the digging site, said: “Much of this land will be filled with water to form the new shipping channel, bringing hope to Egyptians whose economy has been badly damaged by political and security trouble.”