Friday, August 7, 2015

Container Ships and Bulk Freight Vessels Queue to Pass Through 'New' Suez Canal

Lavish Ceremony Sees Egyptian Government Gamble Officially Opened
Shipping News Feature

EGYPT – WORLDWIDE – The official opening of the ‘new’ Suez Canal this week has not been greeted with the wave of global enthusiasm which the Egyptian government clearly would have wished for, and possibly, expected. The ability for vessels to transit both ways with the addition of a twenty two mile parallel waterway and the overall deepening of the main canal, will certainly mean the ability to handle more and larger container and bulk ships and increase the freight tonnage carried.

As the first vessels queued to mark the inauguration celebrations, dissenting voices as to the wisdom of investing $8+ billion on the route, rather than improving transport infrastructure and public services in the country, could clearly be heard. The government however is unrepentant saying its analysis of trade trends indicates the boost in numbers of ships per day capable of being transited, from the current 49 to 97, will be easily fulfilled, increasing revenue to $13+ billion annually.

Detractors contest that the lower figure has not been reached for some while and that the improvements make little difference to the size of vessels likely to use the passageway. Others, like French container shipping line CMA CGM, which has used the canal regularly since 1983, offered fulsome praise and had vessels waiting to be amongst the first to pass along the new stretch as the sparkling opening ceremony got under way on August 6.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, in familiar dark glasses and military uniform, oversaw a ceremony at which over 5,000 invited guests celebrated, including French President Francois Hollande, King Abdullah of Jordan and Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The President conducted the affair from the deck of the yacht El-Mahrousa, the first ever vessel to pass through the canal back in 1869 whilst overhead military jets and helicopters flew as a symbol of Egypt’s perceived new status.

Time will be the judge as to whether what was clearly designed as a nations unifying project, the so-called 'Gift to the World' will succeed. With the fundamental changes taking place at the world’s other great man made land passageway, the Panama Canal, due to open next year, and the planned Nicaraguan scheme rumoured to be commencing its ‘construction phase’ sometime later this year, it remains to be seen if the Egyptian government’s gamble pays off.

Photo: The great and the good gather for the opening ceremony.