Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Tuesday that the blockage of the Suez Canal by the mega Ever Given container ship has reaffirmed the importance of the canal, praising Egyptians' response in a time of crisis.
“The crisis was something that we didn’t want, but this was fate. It affirmed the major role and significance of the canal in the past 150-160 years,” he said.
El-Sisi said that the crisis also showed the strong impact of the canal on global trade, which he said sees the crossing of 12-13 percent of total global trade.
“This was a blessing in disguise, and this incident showed that the canal is enduring and competing,” he said.
The president’s remarks came during a visit today to the Maritime Training and Simulation Centre of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) in Ismailia, less than one day after Egypt succeeded in refloating the mega container ship that blocked the canal for six days, thus allowing navigation in the strategic waterway to resume.
“Despite the size of the losses and challenges that the SCA faced to re-float the ship, the operation was accomplished without human or material damage,” he said.
The president also thanked the authority’s workers, who participated in the rescue operation.
El-Sisi said he was also grateful to foreign countries that offered assistance to Egypt to free the ship, saying that Cairo appreciated the offers that came from the Gulf, the region, and globally.
He praised Egyptians’ response to the crisis, describing it as “remarkable”.
"Their response on social media and media outlets to the [success] of the re-floating operation showed their love for their country,” he said.
El-Sisi stressed that Egypt was able to overcome major crises in the past seven or eights years due to the awareness of Egyptians.
The 400-metre-long Ever Given, which was on its way from China to the port city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, veered off course and ran aground diagonally while it was passing through the international trade route on Tuesday morning.
The gigantic ship, which had been wedged sideways across the waterway for six days, left around 422 vessels queued in the waterway or at anchor, awaiting transit through the canal.
He said the state will provide all equipment needed by the SCA to boost the authority’s capabilities.
“It’s important that lessons turn into reality. If we are meant to get equipment amid the evolution of giant ships…regardless of the cost and circumstances, we will immediately contract for them,” he said.
New equipment for the canal
In remarks at the start of the president's visit, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said that upgrading the authority’s dredgers were among key lessons learnt after the mega-ship crisis.
Rabie said that a new dredger, dubbed Mohab Mamish, will arrive in Egypt on 7 April from the Netherlands, with another dredger arriving in August.
He said two of four new tugboats manufactured in Port Said have participated in the Ever Given’s tugging operations.
Rabie revealed that Egypt has made an agreement with a Chinese company to acquire five new tugboats, with two manufactured in China and three in Egypt.
The SCA head also highlighted progress on the clearing of 422 vessels queued due to the saga.
Some 113 ships crossed the waterway by Tuesday morning after the resumption of traffic in the canal, Rabie said.
140 ships will pass the canal by the end of the day, he said, with 95 passing by 7pm and another 45 by midnight.
He added that the backlog due to the suspension of traffic by the crisis would be cleared in three to four days.
The president then toured the facilities at the maritime training centre.