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.


Missile attack on Yemen MP home kills two including child

Updated 20 min 15 sec ago

Missile attack on Yemen MP home kills two including child

  • The MPs daughter-in-law and granddaughter were killed
  • Griffiths condemned the attack and called for a halt to the recent military escalation

DUBAI: A rebel missile attack on the home of a Yemeni lawmaker killed two of his relatives, authorities said Thursday, drawing condemnation from the UN after a recent strike in the area left 116 dead.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government — backed by an Arab coalition — has been battling the Iran-allied rebels since 2014, when they overran the capital Sanaa.
The attack on Wednesday night targeted the home of parliamentarian Mossad Hussein Al-Sawadi in Marib province, east of the capital, killing his daughter-in-law and 16-year-old granddaughter, according to the official Saba news agency.
“Sawadi was seriously injured along with three other members (of his family),” said Hussein Al-Huleissi, director of the criminal investigation department in Marib.
“The strike destroyed the home completely and caused panic in the residential neighborhood.”
United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths condemned the attack and called for a halt to the recent military escalation in Yemen, which comes after several months of relative peace.
“Targeting MPs and civilian areas is unacceptable and against international law,” he said in a tweet.
The attack came after a missile strike blamed on the Iran-backed Houthi militia killed 116 people including civilians at a mosque in a military camp in Marib on Saturday.
On Thursday, authorities in Marib said they dismantled two Houthi-linked “cells” that took part in planning the strike.
The attack on the mosque, one of the bloodiest single incidents since the war erupted, came a day after coalition-backed government forces launched a large-scale operation against the Houthis in the Nihm region, north of Sanaa.
Army spokesman Abdullah Al-Shandaki told AFP on Tuesday that 72 Houthis had been killed in the fighting.
Saba said the fighting had continued into Thursday, and medical sources reported dozens of dead and wounded on both sides.
Meanwhile, heavy fighting between coalition-backed government troops and the Houthis broke out in the northern province of Jawf on Thursday.
Since 2015, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.