Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi on Tuesday approved the Suez Canal Authority’s plan to widen and deepen 40 kilometres of the international waterway, including the part that witnessed the Ever Given crisis in March.
The giant container ship, sailing under the Panamanian flag, ran aground in March and blocked the Suez Canal, where around 10 percent of the international trade passes, for almost a week.
The 400-meter-long ship was refloated and is currently held by the Egyptian authorities until its company pays compensation claim of $600 million.
El-Sisi gave the approval to the projects while attending the inauguration ceremony of a number of projects belonging to SCA in Ismailia governorate.
Attending the ceremony, Osama Rabie, the SCA chief, explained the project to develop the southern stretch of the canal.
The project includes widening 30 kilometres of the stretch between the Suez city and the Great Bitter Lake area by 40 meters, Rabie said. He noted that the authority will also deepen that part from 66 to72 feet.
The remaining 10 kilometres of the waterway will also be expanded so that it allows two-directional traffic and enables more ships to pass.
El-Sisi said the project should be finished over the course of two years at most.
El-Sisi inaugurated several projects through video conference before he moved to the scene in a tour to inspect them.
The inaugurated projects include the first phase of Port Said water station with a capacity of 80,000 cubic meters and at a cost of EGP 180 million, Rabie said.
This phase will raise the station's daily supply of water to 480 cubic meters to provide the needs of Port Said city till 2038, Rabie noted.
The projects also included the Ferdan Pilot Station, which is one of 16 stations established along the waterway course.
The stations are part of the state’s digital transformation plan to link all the navigation monitors through a unified grid, Rabie said.
Rabie also shed light on other projects that are being constructed, including turning the administrative building of the Suez Canal Company established in 1862 to an international museum.
The museum will showcase the history of the canal since the Pharaonic idea of linking the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea until the drilling of the New Suez Canal, Rabie added.
El-Sisi, during the ceremony, said the SCA has finished the building of 34 fully-equipped fishing ships as part of 100 ships the SCA is building at a cost of EGP 2 billion.
He said the ships can fish at regional and international waters, noting that each of the ships comes at a cost of EGP 17-18 million.
The president invited the private sector to contribute to building the fishing fleet and to engage in other national projects.
El-Sisi also spoke about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) dispute, saying the negotiations path is usually “hard and strenuous” and needs “patience and deliberation”.
Egypt and Sudan have been in dispute with Ethiopia over Addis Ababa's plans to unilaterally implement the second dam filling next July despite the two states’ water concerns.
The president reassured citizens that Egypt’s water rights will not be compromised.
He said he believes it is normal for Egyptian people to worry about the issue, saying he appreciates their concerns about their homeland. He, however, urged them to be confident that their water rights will not be forsaken.
He mentioned his recent meetings with US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Cairo to discuss the GERD crisis.
He said the political path and efforts are ongoing to reach a solution to this “extremely sensitive” issue.
El-Sisi hailed the Ramadan TV series that brought to memories the “hard days” Egypt has witnessed and “could only pass thanks to [the people’s] sacrifices … to combat terrorism”.
He greeted the families of those who lost their lives to face terrorism and “endured fire, bullets and explosives instead of the Egyptian people”.
El-Ikhtyar 2 soap opera displayed this Ramadan has shed light on the heroic acts and sacrifices made by the security forces to combat terrorism over the past decade.