Egypt has finished work on the New Suez Canal built a cost of about $8 billion, expanding the existing 146-year old waterway by doubling the traffic capacity and significantly reducing the waiting time, Suez Canal Authority chairman Mohab Mameesh said in a news conference yesterday.
The new canal project which also includes plans to build six tunnels beneath the canal to transform a 76,000 sq.km area into a commercial and industrial hub is seen as a symbol of national pride by the country's president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
The New Suez Canal is scheduled to be unveiled on 6 August in the presence of Sisi and foreign dignitaries. A test run with a cargo ship was carried out last week.
The canal, which is the shortest shipping link between Europe and Asia, is a vital source of foreign exchange for Egypt.
The completion time for the new canal, which was originally expected to take five years, was drastically cut short by Sisi to one year.
"We have finished work on time and even before the specified time," Mameesh said at a news conference.
The enlarged canal would allow two-way traffic over much of the canal's length. The new canal is about 72-km long including deepening and widening of two bypasses. The original canal, after several enlargements, is currently 193-km long.
Daily average transiting of vessels will double from 49 ships at present to 97 ships by 2023. Ships' navigation time will be reduced significantly to 11 hours from over18 hours.
According to Mameesh, the revenues from the Suez Canal would jump from $5 billion to $15 billion annually by 2023.
A delegation from the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the association of ship owners and operators, visited the new canal.
Brushing aside potential threats from Islamic militants on Suez Canal, Mameesh stressed on its security saying that recent attacks would not have an effect on it.
''The important takeaway is one of wonder at the fact this has been completed so quickly," said ICS secretary general Peter Hinchliffe said.
"More ships will be able to use the canal and most importantly for us the time that ships are taking to get through the canal is being reduced," he added.
It is expected that the international industrial and logistics hub, when completed, would eventually make up about a third of the country's economy, providing employment to around one million people.