The Suez Canal is a vital source of foreign revenue of Egypt, but its limited capacity has led to growing congestion over the years, forcing shippers to consider alternative routes. One of the first projects to be executed by President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was the fast-track expansion of the waterway.
The project involved the construction of a new 34-kilometre canal parallel to an existing section of the waterway and the expansion of two bypasses. The new canal runs parallel to the original, and allows for traffic in both directions along most of its length. This reduces waiting times for ships from 8-11 hours to three, and cuts southbound transit times from 18 to 11 hours.
It was opened in August 2015, taking just one year to complete. The canal is run by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), which has forecast that by 2023, revenues from the waterway will reach $13.3bn, up from $5.3bn in 2015.
In October 2014, contracts were signed with six international dredging firms to dig the new channel. They were: National Marine Dredging Company of the UAE; Royal Boskalis Westminster and Van Oord, based in the Netherlands; Jan De Nul Group and Deme Group of Belgium; and US-based Great Lakes Dredge and Dock Company.