Egypt holds trial run on second Suez Canal

Container ships and pilot boats sail on the waterway of the New Suez Canal in Ismailia, east of Cairo, Egypt, 25 July 2015.
Image caption The exercise was closely monitored by helicopters and naval vessels

The first cargo ships have passed through Egypt's second Suez Canal, amid tight security, ahead of the new waterway's official opening next month.

Construction on the new lane, which runs alongside part of the existing canal, started less than a year ago.

The 72km (44 mile) route allows two-way traffic and can accommodate larger vessels.

Several container ships from around the world successfully navigated it on Saturday as part of a trial run.

Helicopters and naval vessels escorted the ships as part of the security operation.

The Sinai Peninsula, which borders the canal, is a base for Islamic militants, who have killed hundreds of people since the military overthrew President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

Trade boost

The original Suez Canal opened almost 150 years ago and links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi says the expansion of one of the world's busiest shipping routes will boost trade and increase employment across the country.

It currently handles 7% of global sea-borne business, and is one of Egypt's main sources of foreign currency income.

Suez Canal project

$8.5bn

raised for canal expansion project

$13.2bn

projected revenue by 2023 (up from $5.3bn)

  • 72km of new channel and bypasses

  • 97 ships a day by 2023 (up from 49)

  • 11-hour southbound transit (down from 18)

  • 12 months to complete project by Aug 2015

AFP

Work on the second waterway is estimated to have cost about $8.5bn (£5.4bn) and is being carried out by the army around the clock.

It will be formally inaugurated on 6 August - one year after construction started - meeting an ambitious target set out by Mr Sisi.

The project has been labelled "a rebirth" for Egypt by the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Adm Mohab Mameesh.

Image caption Officials say the new waterway will be a symbol of the new Egypt

But it does have its critics. Some experts are dubious about the revenue projections and believe the money should have been spent elsewhere.

"It's a patriotic project first of all, and that's very difficult to quantify," Cairo-based investment analyst Angus Blair told the BBC.

On Saturday, Adm Mameesh also revealed plans to build another canal near East Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is expected to cost around $60m and will be 9.5km (6 miles) long, Reuters reports.

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