Egypt Unveils Plans for new Suez Canal

When the Suez Canal opened in 1869, it revolutionised trade and transport. A massive undertaking, the artificial waterway took a full decade to construct and allowed ships to travel between Europe and Asia without the need to navigate all the way around Africa. To this day, it remains one of the world’s most important trade routes.
145 years later, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has now unveiled a new project to double up the canal. In an effort to increase the number of ships using the canal, the new project intends to build a second canal parallel to the first that will function as a second lane. This will allow the canal to provide for two-way traffic in a way it is not currently able to achieve.
Excluding the access channels at each end, the canal is almost 101 miles long. The new canal is not intended to cover this distance in full. Rather, it will run parallel to a strategically-chosen 45 mile stretch of the existing canal.
The new lane is hoped to be open within a year, according to major Egyptian news outlets, but this extremely short timescale is far from guaranteed. Though the new channel will be far shorter than the main canal and benefits from modern, more technologically advanced equipment, it remains a massive undertaking.
The project is forecast to cost approximately $4 billion (£2.38 billion), and President Sisi has said that there will be no foreign investment used to finance the project. Instead, he hopes to raise the money for the project by soliciting contributions from individual Egyptian citizens. “We want all Egyptians to hold shares in this project,” he said in a speech while unveiling the project.
The Suez Canal is not only an important trade route, but a powerful symbol. Due to the immense scale and vast importance of the original project, it is famous around the world as a symbol of human achievement. It is even more symbolic within Egypt. After a long history of colonial ownership, it passed into Egyptian ownership in 1956 as the result of great effort on the part of Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt at the time.
However, the project is also of far more practical importance to Egypt at present. The country’s economy has suffered after several years of political unrest. Tourism, formerly a major contributor to Egypt’s economy, has particularly suffered as the political situation has deterred international visitors. The Suez Canal is one of Egypt’s strongest economic assets, bringing around US$5 billion (£3 billion) worth of foreign currency into the country each year. It is hoped that the new lane will significantly boost the number of ships using the canal, and therefore raise the economic value of the waterway to even higher levels.
Author: Matthew Scott