Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Container Ships Carry First Ocean Freight Through New Suez Canal

Ships Worldwide Asked to Join Celebrations on Official Opening Day
Shipping News Feature

EGYPT – For the past year or so whenever a canal project is mentioned thoughts turn to the redevelopment of the Panama route and its incredibly impressive feats of engineering. The Suez authorities however have not been idle and on August 6 there will be the official opening of the New Suez Canal by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. Already this month we have seen ocean borne freight on the waterway when several container ships successfully navigated the new 44 mile route.

With three vessels headed in each direction the APL Southampton became the first to transit the route from the port of Suez to Port Said, closely followed by the Maersk Sheerness, at 97,600 dwt and with a capacity of 8,450 TEU, the largest ship in the first convoy, heading up UASC’s Mayysan with a capacity of 6,921 TEU. Travelling northward was another Maersk vessel, the 108,800 dwt 8,814 TEU Northern Jamboree then the biggest ship, the 151,000 dwt New Panamax class, APL Sentonsa, capable of carrying 14,000 TEU, which in turn preceded OOCL’s Utah (8,888 TEU).

We use the term ‘in convoy’ advisedly, the banks of the Canal, particularly to the East across Sinai, are home to Islamic militants, a constant security threat as evidenced by the armed vessels and helicopters lurking overhead as the giant ships, a juicy target for any militant with a point to prove, passed almost silently beneath. The cost of the project, which will enable vessels to transit in both directions simultaneously, is said to have been $8.5 billion, what is notable however is that the Egyptian government had the army undertake the bulk of the work, presumably thus counting the serving soldiers pay for the year-long construction within that cost, whilst also covering the security requirement at no extra charge.

The Suez Canal Authority has estimated that a southbound transit will take only 11 hours now, as opposed to the previous 18. Somewhat more ambitiously it says additionally, by 2023, it will have almost doubled the daily throughput of vessels, from 49 to 97 which will earn an estimated $13.2 billion annually. The whole project is part of the proposed Suez Canal Zone, an economic development area planned to hold manufacturing and ship repair facilities with a logistics park to match. So far over 200 million tonnes of sand have been removed to create the new waterway and the authorities have asked ships worldwide to blow their horns in celebration to coincide with the official opening.

The new route has also prompted the shipping lines to advertise new and improved services, the G6 Alliance and Maersk have both deployed scheduled sailings between Asia and the US East Coast for Post Panamax box vessels via the improved Canal instead of the previously favoured Panama link.

Photo: Armed guards protected the first vessels to pass through the new link.