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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Suez Canal expected to be opened by Egypt in early August

The project is seen as a potent symbol of national pride and means to boost the country

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CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt's Suez Canal expansion, aimed at easing congestion through the digging of a second channel, is expected to be completed in early August, according to officials.

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The project is seen as a potent symbol of national pride and means to boost the country's battered economy by president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi following ongoing unrest and instability in the wake of the Arab Spring.

The army began work 10 months ago on the US $8 billion project, with a new channel flanking the existing, historic 145-year-old waterway being dug.

The project is part of a larger undertaking to expand trade along the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia, which is the flagship shipping route of the world economy.

The Suez Canal, which generates income through fees paid by the more than 24,000 ships that pass through each year, is a vital source of hard currency for Egypt, particularly since the 2011 uprising that scared off tourists and foreign investment.

"The digging and dredging works will conclude on July 15. The opening of the New Suez Canal will be on August 6," Mohab Mameesh, chairman and managing director of the Suez Canal Authority, told a news conference Saturday.

"Once President al-Sisi orders the start of navigation on August 6, ships will be able to go through the canal," he added.

Mameesh said the new canal would reduce navigation time for ships to 11 hours from about 22 hours, making it the fastest such waterway in the world.

The new and old canal are connected by four small channels, allowing ships to pass between them, creating the ability for ships to overtake and navigate in both directions, which was previously not possible.

Eighty five percent of dredging works have been completed, with 219.3-million cubic metres of sand excavated from a total of 258-million cubic metres, said Mameesh.

"They are not only digging or dredging works, but also preparing the maritime path to be valid and secure for global navigation. We will not allow any ship to pass unless it has navigational security," Mameesh added.

The existing canal earns Egypt around US $5 billion per year, but the new canal, which will dramatically increase shipping through flow, is expected to increase revenues by 2023 to US $15 billion.

The government also plans to build an international industrial and logistics hub near the Suez Canal that is planned to eventually contribute to about a third of the Egyptian economy.> BNN

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