Egyptian air force planes parade in front of a cargo container ship crosses the new section of the Suez Canal after the opening ceremony of the new Suez Canal, in Ismailia, Egypt, August 6, 2015 (Reuters)
Twenty-two commercial ships traversed a new extension to the Suez Canal the day after it was opened, state-run news agency MENA reported on Friday.
On Thursday, Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi officially opened the new 35-kilometre channel, which enables two-way traffic along part of the 145-year old waterway, the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
The completed project, which also involved widening and deepening 37 kilometres of existing bypasses, shortens the transit time for southbound convoys by 7 hours, and allows the passage of larger vessels.
Two-way traffic along the entire canal reached 54 vessels on Friday, MENA reported, citing Suez Canal Authority sources.
The average number of ships passing through the canal daily is currently 49, according to the authority, a figure which it estimates will increase to 97 by 2023 thanks to the new expansion.
Egypt's government expects revenues from the Suez Canal, a vital source of foreign currency income for Egypt, to more than double to $13.2 billion a year by 2023.
“The extension will enable larger vessels to transit, benefitting not only the shipping companies, but also our partners and world trade as a whole,” Maersk Line, one of the world's biggest shipping companies and the canal's largest customer, said in a statement on Thursday.
World leaders including French President Francois Hollande, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, and King Abdullah II of Jordan attended the $30 million inaugural celebration for the expanded canal amid heightened security on Thursday.