• Regional and international dignitaries attend inauguration
  • Project is historic in scope and execution timeline

Egypt president Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, in full military uniform, led his country in celebrating the opening of the $8.2bn Suez Canal on 6 August amid major fanfare and display of national pride.

Al-Sisi led the parade along the canal on a boat swarmed by several naval ships and military helicopters.

The $8.2bn expansion project, originally designed with a three-year execution timeline, was completed within a year and within budget

A new 72-kilometre long waterway will enable two-way traffic and double the current daily ship capacity. The Suez Canal is an important source of scarce foreign currency for Egypt.

MEED had earlier reported that Egypt’s expansion of the Suez Canal and the plans to develop land along the waterway are aimed at kickstarting the diversification of the economy

Egypt hopes the canal authority will increase its annual revenue from $5.3bn in 2015 to $13.2bn in 2023.

The Finance Ministry is pushing through legislation for a 500 square-kilometre Suez Canal Zone (SCZone). It will cater to a broad range of sectors, including manufacturing, logistics, ship repair, and more. Manmmesh expects the zone to create 1 million jobs over the next 15 years.

The investment needed is estimated at $50bn, with $15bn for infrastructure and utilities, $15bn for enhancing ports, and $20bn in industrial and other areas.

As part of the SCZone project, two dry ports are proposed to be built at 10 Ramadan City and in Ismailia to promote the movement of goods between the zone and the domestic market.

Cairo hopes the investment will maintain the canal’s position as a major maritime trade route against growing competition.

Regional and international dignitaries from 121 countries attended the inaugural event including French president Francois Holland, Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef al-Saud.