Egypt’s New Suez Canal will open on August 6, the canal authority chairman said on Saturday, a project that the president Abdel Fattah El Sisi hopes will stimulate an economy suffering double-digit unemployment.
The army began work 10 months ago on the new canal, built alongside the existing historic waterway at a cost of US$8 billion and part of a multi-billion-dollar project to expand trade along the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia. The Suez Canal is a vital source of hard currency for Egypt, particularly since a 2011 uprising that scared off tourists and foreign investment.
“The digging and dredging works will conclude on July 15. The opening of the New Suez Canal will be on August 6, according to the orders of the Egyptian people and the Egyptian president,” said Mohab Mameesh, the chairman and managing director of the Suez Canal Authority.
“Once President El Sisi orders the start of navigation on August 6, ships will be able to go through the canal,” he added.
Mr El Sisi launched the project in August last year and set an ambitious target of digging the new canal in one year. Mr Mameesh said the new canal would reduce navigation time for ships to 11 hours from about 22 hours, making it the fastest canal in the world. The new and old canals are connected by four small canals.
Eighty-five per cent of dredging works have been completed, with 219.3 million cubic metres of sand excavated from a total of 258 million cubic meters, Mameesh said, adding that the new waterway would be fully secured.
“There are not only digging or dredging works, but also we are preparing the maritime path to be valid and secure for global navigation. We will not allow any ship to pass unless it has navigational security,” he said.
Alongside the new canal, the government also plans to build an international industrial and logistics hub near the Suez Canal, which it expects will eventually make up about a third of the Egyptian economy.
Authorities raised $9 billion to build the new canal by selling shares in the project to domestic investors, tasking private Egyptian companies with its construction.
Built 146 years ago, the Suez Canal is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes and has been a key source of international trade, earning Egypt billions of dollars in annual revenue.
* Reuters, with additional reporting by AFP
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