Security weighs on Suez traffic

05 September 2013

Egypt shipping route a vital source of foreign exchange for Cairo, but instability is having an impact

Despite the successful foiling of an attack on a container ship passing through the Suez Canal on 1 September, the instability in Egypt and the wider region threatens traffic volumes through the waterway.

According to Suez authorities, the canal has so far been immune to the rising instability in Egypt seen since President Mohamed Mursi was ousted in early July and the subsequent clampdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Daily traffic volumes even rose in the first half of August compared with the first half of the year.

Egypt’s political crisis has, however, already hit canal traffic. In January, there was a sharp decline in vessel numbers, which coincided with riots in the Port Said area. As confidence dwindled in Mursi, so too did the number of ships using the waterway, with numbers falling by 6 per cent in the first half of the year.

The prospect of a US strike on Syria could also negatively affect the canal. The Tamarod movement that spearheaded the anti-Mursi protests has called for the canal to be closed to Syria-bound warships. As a result of the Egyptian and Syrian crises, the canal risks being blockaded by various political groups.

These factors could make shipping firms consider transiting via the Cape of Good Hope instead, which would cut off a vital source of foreign exchange from Egypt’s economy.

Despite the claims by the authorities, the Suez Canal is far from immune to wider political problems in Egypt and beyond.

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