Suez Canal is ‘lifeline’ for Egypt a century and half on

Container ships account for more than half of Suez Canal’s total traffic nowadays, with some of them being among the largest in the world reaching a capacity of up to 23,000 TEUs. (AFP)
Updated 11 November 2019

Suez Canal is ‘lifeline’ for Egypt a century and half on

  • The canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation in 1869 and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships
  • Giant oil tankers carrying more than 200,000 tons can now transit through the canal as well

ISMAILIA, Egypt: One hundred and fifty years after the Suez Canal opened, the international waterway is hugely significant to the economy of modern-day Egypt, which nationalized it in 1956.
The canal, which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea, was opened to navigation in 1869 and was expanded in 2015 to accommodate larger ships.
Dug in the 19th century using “rudimentary tools,” the canal has today become “a lifeline for Egypt and countries around the world,” Admiral Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said in a rare interview.
“We give credit to Ferdinand de Lesseps for putting forward the idea,” he said, referring to the French diplomat who masterminded the waterway dug over a decade between 1859 to 1869.
But he insisted it was thanks to the “genius” of the Egyptian people that the project really came to life.
“It was a miracle by all accounts to excavate a 164-kilometer-long canal in 10 years with rudimentary tools,” he said.
“A quarter of Egyptians took part in the excavations, that was about a million citizens out of the population of 4.5 million people at that time.”
“Between 100,000 to 120,000 died,” Rabie added, highlighting that many succumbed to disease. Experts however dispute those figures saying the fatalities were poorly documented.
In 2015, Egyptians threw their support behind President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s project to expand the canal, “purchasing 64 billion Egyptian pounds ($3.8 million) of investment certificates within eight days.”
Thanks to that project, transit time has now been cut from 22 to 11 hours, and the number of vessels crossing daily has increased from an average of 40-45 to 60-65 giant tankers, he said.
Nowadays, container ships account for more than half of the canal’s total traffic, with some of them being among the largest in the world reaching a capacity of up to 23,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit).
Giant oil tankers carrying more than 200,000 tons can now transit through the canal as well.
Authorities have also sought to develop the Sinai Peninsula, which lies on the eastern edge of the canal.
“We have also dug six tunnels under the Suez Canal to facilitate movement crossing to and from the Sinai,” Rabie said.
“Before we used to talk about developing the Sinai Peninsula without any serious decisions having been taken. Now access is easy for people and investors.”
Egypt is also developing a free-zone trade hub spanning 461 square kilometers (178 square miles) known as “the Suez Canal Economic Zone.”
“Many projects exist along the banks,” said Rabie, citing ship supply zones, pharmaceutical factories and car assembly plants.
He maintained also that the canal “is perfectly secured” under the command of the Egyptian armed forces.
Ongoing fighting between the Egyptian army against the Islamist insurgents in North Sinai “has not affected” the canal or trade, he stressed.


Mubarak to be buried in ‘small’ military funeral

Updated 7 min 15 sec ago

Mubarak to be buried in ‘small’ military funeral

  • The event will be low key because of Mubarak's conviction for embezzling state funds, source tells Arab News
  • Unclear whether President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi will attend

CAIRO: Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak will be buried in a small military funeral, a source told Arab News.

The event will be low key because of his conviction, along with his two sons, on corruption charges, the source said.

Normally, a military funeral would not be held for anyone with a criminal record.

The source was unable to confirm whether President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, would attend the funeral or if any other Arab leaders would be there. It was also unclear when it would take place.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades before he was toppled during the Arab Spring, died on Tuesday at the age of 91.

He had been in intensive care in a military hospital in Cairo for more than a month, after undergoing abdominal surgery.

Mubarak was cleared on appeal in 2014 of charges that he failed to prevent the killing of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 uprising against his rule. But the legal proceedings linked to the uprising would drag on for three more years.

In 2015, he was sentenced to three years in prison over the embezzlement of state money allocated for presidential palaces. His sons Alaa and Gamal were also jailed for their roles in the scandal.

On Saturday, a Cairo court acquitted the two brothers, along with seven others, of stock market manipulation in 2007 during the sale of a bank.

Mubarak became the fourth president of Egypt in October 1981, taking over after Anwar Sadat was assassinated by extremists.

He stood down on Feb. 11, 2011 after 18 days of mass protests and handed power to Egypt’s military.

Born in the village of Menufiyah in the Nile Delta, Mubarak graduated from the air force academy in 1950, and became air force chief of staff in 1972.

In 1975, Sadat chose him as vice president, and after Sadat’s death, Mubarak assumed the presidency after a confirmation referendum. He renewed his term through similar referendums in the years 1987, 1993 and 1999.

He won a presidential election held in 2005 - the first held during his rule.

After his downfall, he was put on trial over the deaths of protesters and sentenced to life imprisonment in June 2012.

He finally walked free in 2017, when Egypt’s highest appeals court cleared him of conspiring to kill protesters. Most of his time in detention was spent at a military hospital.