The Suez Canal, the shortest sea route between Europe and the countries of the Indian Ocean and the Western Pacific, is celebrating 150 years full of history, between the satisfaction of the Egyptian authorities and the shadows on the fulfillment of its objectives.
The head of the Suez Canal Management Authority, Admiral Osama Rabie, highlighted today in a press appearance the "success" of this infrastructure and the "pleasure" that constitutes celebrating its 150th anniversary, a "unique event in the heart of the Egyptians. "
"Today is a day to remember the victories and challenges, as well as the sacrifices and everything that the Egyptian people gave in the name of the canal," said the admiral, referring to the "100,000 martyrs" who lost their lives during the construction of the monumental engineering work in 1869.
SATISFACTION OF AUTHORITIES
"The Suez Canal opened and changed the world map forever," Rabie said at the agency's headquarters, in the city of Ismailiya on the shores of the sea passage, and recalled that at this time 10% of maritime trade transits through this artificial step and its volume "does not stop growing".
The head of the channel stressed that this 150th anniversary marks a "unique event in the heart of the Egyptians" and comes at a time of growth.
"We have all the necessary elements of success," he added, listing the record figures that the infrastructure has recorded since its last expansion in 2015, when the transit time for vessels was reduced, which may also have more draft and tonnage than before.
The channel is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for the coffers of Egypt and in fiscal year 2018-2019 generated revenues of 5.900 million dollars, the highest figure in its history.
However, despite the fact that these revenues were 5.4% higher than in the same period of the previous year, the activity has not grown at the rate of reaching $ 13 billion in 2023, an objective set by the Egyptian authorities when they opened Suez's new channel in August 2015.
THE CHANNEL EXTENSION
Inaugurated by the Egyptian president, Abdelfatah al Sisi, in 2015, the cost of construction exceeded 20,000 million Egyptian pounds (about 1,200 million dollars), between the creation of the new channel, which covers from kilometer 60 to 75, and the Existing expansion.
Managed by the Suez Canal Authority, the new seaway facilitates traffic in two directions and, according to data from the agency, since the expansion have already traveled more than 70,000 ships.
The revenue generated after the expansion "does not go along the path with which (the Egyptian Government) justified the expansion," said political analyst Timothy Kaldas of the Tahrir Institute for the Middle East, who said "those numbers never made sense. "
However, the authorities continue to celebrate the performance of the project and on August 2 announced by hype and saucer that 81 ships loaded with 6.1 tons crossed the canal that day, the highest figure so far.
Even so, the expert and co-founder of the TankerTrackers tanker tracking service, Samir Madani, assured Efe that the sea lane does not meet the necessary requirements for the transit of large tankers.
The channel "is clearly not sized for VLCCs (large tankers with capacities exceeding 300,000 tons)", the analyst emphasizes, since the heaviest vessel that has crossed it has been 240,000 tons.
Madani said that if a vessel exceeds the weight limit, it can sink too much and it will be forced to discharge “almost half of its oil” in the SUMED (Suez-Mediterranean) pipeline, which flows into western Alexandria and represents a additional cost for shipping companies.
"I would see much more activity if they dredged it in more depth and allowed to navigate the large oil tankers fully loaded," according to the expert, who added that "there is more crude sailing" through the other major global channel, that of Panama.
"That is why many ships prefer to go around Africa" instead of going through the Suez Canal, even if it requires more time, Madani said.
Carles Grau Sivera
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