Suez Canal receives big dredger in deliberate improve

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CAIRO — An enormous dredger has made it to the Great Bitter Lakes, near the Suez Canal, in preparation for becoming a member of the fleet of the worldwide maritime passageway.

Named for the previous head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Mameesh, and constructed by Dutch Royal IHC, along with one other dredger, for 300 million euros ($360 million), the brand new digger is 147.four meters (484 toes) lengthy and 23 meters (75 toes) large. It can dredge to 35 meters (115 toes) deep; the canal’s depth is 24 meters (79 toes).

Its arrival comes solely days after the authority chairman, Adm. Osama Rabie, mentioned the authority was considering widening the southern part of the waterway.

The widening of this part, maritime transport specialists mentioned, acquires nice significance within the gentle of developments in maritime transport around the globe and the emergence of a brand new technology of super-large vessels.

“This widening can be implemented in the coming period, even as most of the container vessels present now can pass through the canal,” unbiased maritime transport knowledgeable Ahmed al-Shami advised Al-Monitor.

Rabie mentioned April 6, “If there is a 250-meter [820-foot-wide] part that needs expansion, maybe we will make it 400 meters [1,312 feet].” This could be sufficient to permit for the passage of the world’s largest vessels even below extraordinary circumstances.

The 220,000-ton, 400-meter-long super-large Panama-flagged Ever Given went aground in a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometers north of its southern entrance March 23, making a logjam unprecedented in its trendy historical past.

Over 400 vessels had been stranded within the one week of the canal’s blockage, making transport and insurance coverage corporations incur lots of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} in losses.

The canal authority additionally misplaced some huge cash in misplaced transit charges. The authority is now impounding the ship and demanding a whopping $1 billion in compensation for the suspension of site visitors within the canal.

The widening of the southern part of the canal, authority officers say, will be sure that this a part of the canal just isn’t blocked sooner or later.

“There is a plan for the upgrade of the canal that should be fully implemented by 2023,” George Safwat, the official spokesman of the SCA, advised Al-Monitor. “It includes an upgrade of the northern and southern entrances to the canal.”

If carried out quickly, the deliberate improve of the southern part of the Suez Canal would be the second to be applied within the worldwide waterway in lower than a decade.

Egypt launched the first improve of the canal in 2014, when it dug a parallel channel to it, permitting two-way site visitors for the primary time since its opening in November 1869.

The creation of the parallel channel eased site visitors and lower ready occasions within the canal to 3 hours from 11 hours up to now. The new channel additionally diminished transit time to 11 hours from 18 up to now.

The multibillion-dollar challenge was the centerpiece of Presidency Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s first time period. 

The canal is a important supply of revenue for Egypt, contributing between $5 billion and $6 billion in revenues to the populous nation yearly.

The Suez Canal just isn’t crucial nationwide revenue generator for Egypt, given different extra essential sources, akin to remittances from Egyptian nationals working in different nations (over $20 billion) and tourism (which contributes over $Eight billion). Nevertheless, the canal is essential for Egypt’s political clout on the worldwide stage, political analysts mentioned.

“The latest crisis has shown that the world cannot do without the Suez Canal,” Tarek Fahmi, a political science professor at Cairo University, advised Al-Monitor. “The fact that there are no alternative routes to the canal gives Egypt its weight and political importance.”

The weight the canal lends Egypt on the worldwide stage was manifest through the one week of its newest blockage.

The quickest sea route between Asia and Europe, almost 15% of the world’s transport site visitors passes by way of the Suez Canal.

Total oil flows by way of the Suez Canal and the SUMED Pipeline, which runs from the Ain Sokhna terminal within the Gulf of Suez, near the Red Sea, to offshore Sidi Kerir, Alexandria, within the Mediterranean Sea, accounted for about 9% of complete seaborne traded petroleum (crude oil and refined petroleum merchandise) in 2017, based on the US Energy Information Administration.

Liquefied pure fuel flows by way of the Suez Canal and the SUMED pipeline accounted for about 8% of world LNG commerce, the US company says.

The March 23 blockage occurred at an previous part of the canal.

The anticipated improve of this part apparently has Sisi’s full assist. On March 30, the Egyptian president mentioned his administration would make the cash wanted for the acquisition of kit required by the canal authority instantly out there.

Sisi’s administration got here below intense stress from the worldwide group through the canal blockage.

Rabie mentioned the Egyptian president referred to as him greater than as soon as a day to get updates on the efforts to refloat the ship caught within the canal. Rabie quoted Sisi as saying he entrusts the admiral and his colleagues with Egypt’s popularity.

Royal IHC is constructing one other big dredger for the canal authority. That one can be named after former Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi.

Both diggers can be used sooner or later improve plans of the canal, together with different gear on the disposal of the SCA, the authority says.

This anticipated improve additionally has the complete assist of the Egyptian parliament, which says it should make the canal extra able to coping with developments in worldwide maritime transport.

“This expansion will make the canal more able to deal with the new generation of container vessels,” Mahmud al-Dabaa, a member of the parliamentary Transport Committee, advised Al-Monitor.

However, widening the southern part of the canal faces some challenges, based on Mahfouz Taha, a retired Egyptian navy admiral who works as an adviser to the canal authority.

These challenges, he added, embody the price of the challenge, which could be excessive.

“The geography of the area where the southern section is located is also challenging,” Taha advised Al-Monitor. “Apart from its mountainous nature, the area also contains an old tunnel, namely the Martyr Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel, which is not easy to deal with.”