After 145 years, the Suez Canal is poised for a major expansion. As reported by the Wall Street Journal in August, 2014, the expansion was funded by Egyptian government share offerings solely to Egyptians which sold out in eight days. The project is actually a new canal that will parallel the current waterway for 45 miles.
The current canal is a vital link between European and Asian ports; it is 120 miles long, 79 feet deep, 573 feet wide, and took ten years to build. There are no locks to slow the traverse. It is the quickest shipping route between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. However, it can offer only one-way vessel traffic at present, since it is too narrow for vessels to cross both ways in some areas. Waiting time to travel the canal can be 11 hours with ships transiting in convoys which can take up to 16 hours. The new, parallel canal will be 45 miles long and will cut the waiting time to three hours and transit time to 11 hours.
The Suez route is a strategic waterway, also serving as a transit route for the US Navy. There is some speculation that the jihadist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula could threaten the security of the canal. In 2013, insurgents hit a container ship with a rocket-propelled grenade.
The plan does not include deepening the waterway to allow access by fully-loaded super tankers. The current canal earns the country $5 billion in toll fees. Fees expected when the new canal is operational are $13.2 billion. The BBC states that 7% of global sea-borne trade is handled by the Suez Canal and is one of Egypt's important sources of foreign currency income.
The $8.5 billion project is expected to raise the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 ships a day to 97 a day by 2023. The construction has a surprisingly short time-line, with a predicted completion of one year. The BBC reported that ground was broken in August, 2014 and as of January, construction is ongoing day and night. Egyptian officials vow the 'New Suez Canal' will open by early August, 2015.
In addition to the new channel, Egypt has plans for a major logistics and shipping corridor along the banks of the waterway. In March, TheNational reported that a special economic zone has been established which will involve several ports: Arish, Port Said, Ismailia, Suez, Ain Sokhna, and Tor. One hundred square kilometers of maritime and logistical facilities will provide manufacturing, transport, logistics, information, communications, and energy. Additionally, 400 square kilometers will be devoted to industrial development.
All of this activity will lead to increased ship traffic and marine logistics. Vessel tracking platforms like PortVision give maritime stakeholders the real-time and historical data on ship movements to support planning, operations, and analysis of vessel activity in waterways (and canals) around the world.