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.


Five civilians killed in Baghdad rocket attack

Updated 28 September 2020

Five civilians killed in Baghdad rocket attack

  • The rockets targeted the international airport but struck a residential home close by instead
  • Rocket attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport

BAGHDAD: Iraqi militia groups fired two Katyusha rockets on a house in Baghdad, killing two women and three children and wounding two other children, the Iraqi military said on Monday.
The deaths were the first among Iraqi civilians in the latest outbreak of violence, during which Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite militias have been blamed for targeting US interests in the country. Police sources said Baghdad airport was the target of the attack. 
The rocket was launched from the Al-Jihad neighborhood of Baghdad.
The attacks have become a frequent occurrence, often targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad, within the heavily fortified Green Zone, and US troops present in Iraqi bases as well as Baghdad Airport. Roadside bombs have also frequently targeted convoys carrying equipment destined for US-led coalition forces.
Previous attacks have caused minor damage but rarely deaths or injuries.
The frequency of the rockets have strained Iraq-US relations, prompting the Trump administration last week to threaten to close its diplomatic mission in Baghdad if Shiite militia groups believed to be orchestrating them are not reigned in.
The disparate nature of Shiite militias following the US assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iranian militia leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis has complicated Iraqi efforts to clamp down on rogue armed elements.
A government raid on the powerful Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah, suspected of launching rocket attacks, backfired when those detained were released for want of evidence.