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New Suez Canal project proposed by Egypt to boost trade

Cairo News.Net - Wednesday 6th August, 2014

ISMAILIA - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Tuesday announced the launch of an ambitious $4 billion (EGP 29 billion) project to create a new Suez Canal alongside the original canal to be completed in a year.

Inaugurating the project at Ismailia governorate, Al-Sisi said the Suez Canal Axis Development Project at the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) club is proposed to be completed within one year instead of the earlier timeline of three years.

Aimed to ease canal congestion by allowing two-directional traffic along a part of the waterway, the project will include building a new canal which will run alongside the present one at least part of the way, according to MarineLog.

While many media reports have stated that the new canal will be 72 km long, MarineLog claims that may not be the case as President el-Sisi has reportedly said the length may be shortened to 35 km due to national security concerns.

Making a detailed presentation, Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Memish said that the new canal would involve 35kms of dry digging and 37kms of "expansion and deep" digging.

It will be established to increase the absorptive capacity of the Suez Canal to 97 passing ships per day, up from the current rate of 49, enabling more ships to traverse to and from Europe and Asia without having to go around Africa.

Upon completion, the project would see canal revenues increase by 259%, from current annual revenues of $5 billion. Memis also noted that the project would provide job opportunities for Egyptian youth and create new urban communities in the area to attract people to be relocated in Sinai and Canal region.

First proposed during the rule of former president Mohamed Morsi, the Suez Canal Axis Development Project had been rejected by the armed forces at that time citing "national security" concerns. It has been adopted by the current government after some modification and involvement of the armed forces.

The Egyptian president announced that digging for the 35 km parallel canal will be finished by mid-2015 far sooner than the three years time frame previously announced for the project.

Al-Sisi attributed the shortened time period to the "the deteriorating security" which could threaten the project.

Calling on all Egyptians to participate in funding the project through a stock market IPO (Initial Public Offering), the president urged Egyptians residing in the country to contribute EGP 100, and those living abroad to donate $100.

Al-Sisi stressed that the government had refused any foreign participation in the project, pointing that only national banks, companies and investors would be able to finance it.

There are seventeen civilian companies competing for the project which is to be executed in cooperation with military companies under the supervision of army's engineering corps.

The project is estimated to cost around EGP 50 billion and holds potential to generate annual revenues of around $1 billion annually, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said on Sunday. Mehleb added that the government will present its plan for the Suez Canal Axis Development Project to consultancy firms within six months.

The project would involve the construction of four new seaports in the three provinces surrounding the canal; a new industrial zone west of the Gulf of Suez; and a technology valley in Ismailia.

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