A container ship crosses the suez canal as Egypt begins first run trial of new branch. Saturday July 25, 2015 (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Egypt began the first trial of the new Suez Canal on Saturday, with three container ships beginning to traverse the channel, state news agency MENA reported.
The official opening of the new 72-kilometre shipping lane is schedule to for 6 August, in the presence of an invited audience of world leaders.
Saturday's trial was attended by the head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Mamesh, and a team of senior officials.
Head of the traffic department in the Suez Canal Authority, Mohamed Saqr, said the trial run aims to demonstrate the new channel's potential capacity, adding that the canal can accomodate a number of different sizes of ships.
The first ship in the trial was a US container with a payload of 133,000 tons, coming from Saudi Arabia's Jeddah and heading to Egypt's Port Said.
The second ship, loaded with 95,000 tons of cargo, was coming from Singapore and heading to the US.
The third — a Bahraini ship with a cargo of 77,000 tons — departed from Jeddah and is heading to Italy.
The government will fund the opening ceremony through public donations and contributions from the dredging companies responsible for digging the new channel, to avoid any burden on the state budget, Mamesh said last month.
The project aims to add a new shipping lane to the existing canal which links the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, and to develop the zone around it into an industrial and commercial hub.
The upgraded canal is expected to speed up traffic along the waterway and to boost its revenues, projected to more than double from $5.3 billion at the end of 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023, according to official estimates.
Built 146 years ago, the Suez Canal is one of the world's most heavily used shipping lanes, earning Egypt billions of dollars in annual revenues.
Excavation of the new channel was begun in August 2014.