The project has been completed in a record time of 13 months
August 7, 2015: Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has unveiled a major extension to the Suez Canal at a lavish ceremony on Thursday. The former army chief formally inaugurated the $8.5 billion project as fighter planes and helicopters flew overhead.
“Egyptians have made a huge effort so as to give humanity this gift for development and construction,” el-Sisi said, admitting that the project will not bring in a quick economic windfall. It’s completion he said was the first step towards the 1000-step journey Egyptians must take towards economic recovery.
Tight security was in place for the ceremony which was attended by foreign dignitaries including French President Francois Hollande and Jordan’s King Abdullah. Egyptian flags adorned streets across the nation, along with banners declaring support for el-Sisi and hailing his latest achievement. Patriotic songs, some written especially for the occasion, blared from TV and radio stations, which was declared a national holiday.
The project, funded by Egyptian people, was completed in a record 13 months by 43,000 labourers working round the clock. At the ceremony, the president publicly signed an order allowing ships to pass through the canal. The expansion of the 120-mile canal is expected to reduce waiting time for ships by eight hours.
By 2023, the number of ships using the canal will increase to 97 per day from 49 now, according to government projections. Officials hope the new waterway will more than double Suez earnings from $5.3 billion expected at the end of 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023. The new extension involved digging and dredging along 45 miles (72 kilometers) of the 120-mile canal, making a parallel waterway that will facilitate two-way traffic. With a depth of 79 feet, the canal now allows the simultaneous passage of ships with up to a 66-foot draught.
The man-made waterway, which was inaugurated in 1869, has long been a symbol of Egyptian national pride. Now with the completion of the new Suez Canal, many in the media are comparing el-Sisi to former President Gamal Abdel Nasser who nationalised the canal in 1956.