Egypt officially has opened a new side channel at the northern entrance the Suez Canal to increase traffic and trade transiting along the canal, according to the American Journal of Transportation.
The new canal, which is 8.5 km (5.2 mile) long, links the East Port Said Harbor with the northern entrance of the Suez Canal at the Mediterranean. It was constructed to provide direct access to the harbor, eliminating the need for vessels heading to the Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT) to wait 6-8 hours for a time window between vessel convoys transiting the canal. This means that the channel, dredged to a depth of 18.5 meters (61 feet), can provide 24-hour access to East Port Said, and SCCT, to the Ultra-Large Container Ships (ULCS) of 18,000 TEU capacity and above now deployed in the Far East/Europe trade lanes, and using the canal in increasing numbers.
In August 2015, a USD $8.2 billion project to deepen the Suez Canal, and excavate a new 35 km (22 mile) channel parallel to sections of the existing canal was completed, enabling two-way traffic along the entire 193 km (120 mile) canal route, and doubling canal traffic capacity from 49 vessels daily to 97. The canal project was completed in one year, leaving the dredging and other heavy equipment in place for construction of the access channel.
The digging and dredging have been carried out in cooperation with the U.S. Great Lakes and the Belgium Dredging International companies.
For its geographic site as a gateway for Europe, “the new side channel aims to open new investment opportunities in the area around the port by establishing logistical, industrial and economic zones,” the prime minister Sherif Ismail said.
Approximately one tenth of all global seaborne trade moves through the Suez Canal, carried by 18,000 vessels, including container ships, transiting annually. SCCT is currently undergoing an expansion, including the installation of new, larger cranes to accommodate the increased vessel traffic, and larger container ships. The four additional Super-Post Panamax cranes scheduled for delivery to the terminal in mid-2016 will bring SCCT’s crane total to 24, increasing the terminal’s annual throughput capacity to 5.4 million TEUS, and making it the largest container terminal by capacity on the Mediterranean Sea. The new STS cranes will each have a 72 meter reach, and a height of 52 meters, with the ability to handle the world’s largest vessels now entering the global fleet.
SCCT is also exploring further investments into dry port facilities and other port functions, including general and liquid bulk operations in order to meet the needs of Egypt’s growing population.