Two consortiums have secured dredging contracts for the expansion of the Suez Canal.

The work is divided into five lots. A consortium of Abu Dhabi-based National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC), Belgium’s Jan de Nul, and Van Oord and Boskalis of the Netherlands has been awarded a $1.5bn contract for four lots. A team of US-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock and Belgium’s Dredging International has secured one lot.

The work is understood to involve the dredging of about 255 million cubic metres of material as part of an expansion scheme that will add a 34-kilometre channel running parallel to the existing canal. This will allow for more ships to pass through the waterway, reducing waiting times.

Currently, ships travelling from the north have to berth for several hours to wait for convoys of vessels from the south to pass. A 2013 report from the Washington-based World Bank found the canal was providing limited returns, and this project is hoped to reverse the situation.

The scheme also involves the dry excavation of similar volumes of material. The army is overseeing the dry excavation work, which started on 10 August, when 3,000 trucks and loaders and 7,500 workers arrived on site.

The project is being funded by investment certificates. In September, the government said it had raised the $8.5bn-worth of funds needed. The certificates have a 12 per cent interest rate, pay quarterly dividends and come in denominations of £E10, £E100 and £E1000 ($1.4-$140).

Proceeds of the certificates will be paid by Suez Canal revenue, which is forecast to grow by $5.5bn to $13bn over the next four years following the expansion.

There is an additional Suez scheme under way focused on the development of the areas surrounding the canal. This will involve the construction of industrial and logistics hubs to support the export operations of Egyptian companies.

In mid-August, the World Bank said it was providing technical advisory services to support the masterplan for the Suez Canal Area Development project.

Foreign and Arab investors will have the opportunity to invest in this scheme, according to Egypt’s Finance Ministry.