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Egypt to dig new canal alongside Suez Canal

Egypt announced on Tuesday it will launch a project to dig a new 72-km canal alongside the original Suez Canal, head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Mamish said during the opening ceremony of the Suez Canal Corridor project. He said the new project aims to create "a new Suez Canal parallel to the current channel," Mohab Mamish told a televised conference attended by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Ismailia province located on its west bank of the Canal. The new project will be implemented in one year from now, and is expected to provide more than one million job opportunities, said Mamish. He also noted that, instead entrusting the project to foreign investment, Egypt intends to allow the country's own companies to build the giant waterway. Preliminary estimates show that the project is going to cost Egypt a total of four billion U.S. dollars. The tunnels, once completed, will reduce passing ships' waiting time from 11 hours to as short as three, and will accordingly increase the number of current containers in the course up to 97 in 2023 from the current 23.

Mamish also said that Cairo has yet to consult any foreign country over the new canal, adding that the armed forces along with the Suez Canal Authority have managed to clean all land mines in the future construction sites that were planted in the 1973 Egyptian-Israeli war. The new artificial waterway, which is part of a larger project to expand Suez port and shipping facilities, is designed to raise Egypt's international profile, and build the nation as a major trade hub. Opened in 1869, the current 163 km-long Suez Canal is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt. It connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, with its northern terminus at Port Said and the southern terminus Port Tawfiq at the city of Suez. More than 100,000 Egyptians lost their lives to build it. "I know that the Egyptians are very sensitive regarding foreign capitals in establishing the canal," Sisi said, adding that only the Egyptians will participate in the subscription for the project. All the interests of the new project will go only for the Egyptians, Sisi said in a reference to Britain, France and Israel which shared the benefits of the canal before the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized it in 1956.

Meanwhile, five industrial, tourism zones, along with housing and shipping services projects around the new canal will be offered for both Egyptian and Foreign companies. "The new canal project is for the Egyptians," Sisi asserted. Up to 27 Egyptian firms could be involved in the project, but the armed forces will be directly responsible for supervising the development of the new canal projects, the former military chief added. The current Suez Canal generates an annual revenue of nearly five billion dollars. It has been an essential source for hard currency except tourism, which has been withering since 2011 uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. The new project will be established at the east bank of the current canal on the borders with restive Sinai Peninsula. For national security concerns, Egypt couldn't build the new parallel canal with the same length of the current one, Sisi added.

Mohamed Omran, chairman of the Egyptian stock exchange, announced that the country is ready to provide the funding needed to develop the canal and the new zones. The Suez Canal projects will be the development center in the near future due to it's advantages in attracting investments in different fields, Omran was quoted by state-run Ahram newspaper on its website. However, Mahmoud Othman, member of the Egyptian Industries Union, urged the government to cut the redtape, and streamline the procedures so that it would be easier for the private sector to invest. Egypt is in dire need for diverse projects so that its ailing economy could survive and even rebound, Othman said, adding that there are still walls, ceilings and floors that limit the private sector's participation in these giant projects.


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