Facts and figures: The new Suez Canal and the historic waterway

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President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Mohab Mamish, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, announced yesterday the plan to dig a new canal parallel to the Suez Canal. The announcement was made at a press conference held in Ismailia. 

The new channel is part of a larger project to expand Suez port and shipping facilities in an effort that aims to lift Egypt’s international profile and establish it as a major trade hub. The new Suez Canal Axis project is made to attract more ships through the fastest trade route between Europe and Asia, thus generating more income.

Here are the facts you need to know about the new Suez Canal:

* The canal stretches for 72 kilometres About 35 kilometres of these will be “dry digging” and the remaining 37 kilometres will be an expansion and deepening of the existing canal. This will facilitate navigation in the canal allowing an increased number of ships, and diminish the duration each ship takes to pass through the canal.

* A million job opportunities The new Suez Canal will increase Egypt’s GDP. Revenues from the canal will increase by 259 per cent. A million jobs will be created through building industrial cities around the canal. These will include zones for building ships, manufacturing vehicles, wood and textile industries, furniture and glass products and fish farms.

* Reduce the time ships wait in the canal from 11 to three hours Reducing the number of hours ships spend waiting in the canal will increase the number of ships passing through the canal from 49 ships a day earlier in 2014 to an estimated 97 ships daily by 2023.

* The canal will cost $4 billion and take one year to complete A further $4.2 will be spent to dig six underground tunnels for transporting vehicles and constructing railways into Sinai. The project will be completed within one year, as opposed to three years as was previously planned by the Armed Forces’ Engineering Department.

* The project will be administrated by the army  The Armed Forces planned and thus shall administrate the new Suez Canal project. Some 17 national construction companies will work in the project under the supervision of the Armed Forces.

* Only Egyptians will fund the new canal The project will be distributed in the form of shares to Egyptians and Egyptian banks. Non-Egyptians will not be allowed to own shares in the new Suez Canal.

The 145-year-old historic waterway, the existing Suez Canal, is one of Egypt’s main sources of hard currency, bringing Egypt over $5 billion in revenues annually in the time when direct foreign investment and tourism declined significantly following and the 2011 revolution, decreasing the amount of hard currency coming into the country.

The Suez Canal in the 1870s (photo: Africanafrican.com)

Here is what you need to know about the existing Suez Canal:

* The canal opened for navigation on 17 November 1869.

* It took 10 years to dig and complete the 163-kilometre waterway.

* The project was built by poorly paid Egyptian workers.

* The canal cut weeks – if not months – off of journeys between Europe and Asia that otherwise necessitated a trip around Africa.

* In 1956, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel-Nasser nationalised the canal which was controlled by Britain at the time. The nationalisation led to a failed invasion by Britain, Israel and France. The waterway was closed until 1957 and then again for eight years following the 1967 war with Israel. The history of Egyptians and waterways:

* The first canal connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea via the River Nile was dug in 1874 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Senausret III. It was abandoned and reopened several times over the subsequent 2,500 years.

* Pharaonic inscriptions showed Egyptians using the canals to move warships, send pilgrims to the Holy Land and transport grain and stones used in ancient monument construction.

* Napoleon sought to build a modern canal in order to undermine Britain’s control of trading routes to Asia, but he abandoned the project after engineers wrongly determined that a difference in water levels would cause the Mediterranean to be inundated.

* Ferdinand de Lesseps and Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha developed the current Suez Canal in the mid-19th century.

The Suez Canal in 1880

Egypt looks to the future now in anticipation of a new Suez Canal that promises to breath new life into a country ready for invigoration.