Egypt's Sisi inaugurates new Suez Canal

2015-08-06 15:53
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (File: AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Ismailiya - President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kicked off a lavish ceremony on Thursday to unveil a "new" Suez Canal, as Egypt sought to boost its economy and international standing by expanding the vital waterway.

Sisi, dressed in ceremonial military uniform, began the ceremony by leading a naval flotilla aboard a historic yacht as fighter planes and helicopters flew overhead.

Security was tightened, with the Islamic State group's warning that it might execute a Croatian kidnapped near Cairo threatening to overshadow the celebrations, showcased by authorities as proof the country was safe.

The event in the port city of Ismailiya attended by several heads of state, including French President Francois Hollande, comes two years after then army chief Sisi overthrew his Islamist predecessor.

Mohamed Morsi's ouster unleashed a deadly crackdown on Islamists, and a jihadist insurgency has killed hundreds of soldiers east of the Suez Canal.

IS's Egyptian affiliate released a video Wednesday threatening to execute hostage Tomislav Salopek, a worker with French geoscience company CGG, within 48 hours unless Egypt frees jailed Muslim women.

Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic was due in Cairo on Thursday to try to secure Salopek's release.

Ambitious target

Sisi, elected last year on a promise to strengthen security and revive a dilapidate economy, broke ground on the canal project last August.

Initial estimates suggested the new route would take up to three years to build, but Sisi set an ambitious target of 12 months.

It has been touted as a landmark achievement, rivalling the digging of the original 192km canal, which opened in 1869 after almost a decade of work.

The new section, built at a cost of $9bn and funded entirely by Egyptian investors, runs part of the way alongside the existing canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

"It's an achievement for the people who managed to fund it as a national project and accomplished it through perseverance and hard work," Sisi's office has said.

It involved 37km of dry digging, creating what is effectively a "second lane", and widening and deepening another 35 kilometres of the existing canal.

It will cut the waiting period for vessels from 18 hours to 11.

By 2023 the number of ships using the canal will increase to 97 per day from 49 now, the government hopes.

Officials hope the new waterway will more than double Suez earnings from $5.3bn expected at the end of 2015 to $13.2bn in 2023.

Analysts were sceptical over the projections.

"The first priority for shipowners and traders is to cut costs, not speed. The trend in recent years has been for ships to travel at lower-than-normal speeds just to... save on their fuel bills," said Ralph Leszczynski, research head at Italian shipbrokers Banchero Costa.

"I do not see any shipowner happy to pay higher fees for shorter waiting hours."

Tight security

The inauguration ceremony began with Sisi leading the naval procession.

Newly acquired French Rafale warplanes and US F-16s, delivered just last week, participated in the fly-past.

Banners saying "New Suez Canal: Egypt's Gift to the World" and "The Egyptian Miracle," as well as hundreds of Egyptian flags, graced the streets of Cairo and Ismailiya.

Dozens of buses ferried invitees to the site of the ceremony as security forces deployed in Ismailiya.

Waiving Egyptian flags, a crowd gathered at Cairo's Tahrir Square - epicentre of protests that ousted Morsi and his predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

"On June 30 [2013] we changed the course of history; today we are changing the geography of the world," said jubilant tour operator Ibrahim El-Khatab, referring to the day when millions protested against Morsi demanding his resignation.

The waterway is a cornerstone for Sisi to boost his regime's legitimacy after a deadly crackdown on dissent.

In revenge, militants have killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula that lies between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal.

Amr Adly, of the Carnegie Middle East Center, said that "since Morsi's ouster, the new regime is engaged in a political conflict to prove its legitimacy inside and outside Egypt.

"The ability to accomplish such an economic project is part of cementing this legitimacy."

The waterway is part of a comprehensive project to develop the area adjacent to the canal into an industrial hub.

"There is a stream of investors who want to invest" in Egypt, Suez Canal Authority chief Mahob Mameesh said last week.

He said around one million jobs are expected to be created over the next 15 years.

Read more on:    abdel fattah al-sisi  |  egypt  |  north afrira

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.