Egypt Seeks to Expand Domestic Cargo Ship Fleet
Egyptian authorities are discussing plans to expand the country’s merchant marine to support the country’s supply chain operations. Egypt joins other developing nations that have been hard hit over the past two years by the disruptions in the global supply chain that are now seeking to develop domestic shipping operations.
Minister of Transport Kamel al-Wazir told reporters during a briefing on May 11 that Egypt would seek to more than triple the number of domestic-flag cargo ships in its shipping operations. The country’s merchant fleet currently numbers just 118 ships of which 35 are large cargo ships. The Ministry of Transport shows figures on its website saying in 2021 that the country’s merchant fleet handled a total of 163 million tons of cargo including 7.3 million TEU. The news outlet Egypt Today reports that the minister said during his briefing that there are currently just five shipping companies working in Egypt of which only two are Arab Egyptians.
The plan calls for raising the cargo fleet to 150 vessels. One of the areas that they have also been discussing is creating a fleet of Egyptian-flagged bulk carriers. al-Wazir said the ministry would be undertaking a feasibility study while also seeking to attract more investors to the maritime sector. He is also looking to form closer working relationships with the Suez Canal Authority. Their efforts are in response to directives from Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who has directed them to create an Egyptian fleet for transporting imports and exports.
The minister recently met with the Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabie and toured the facilities at the Suez Shipbuilding Company. They highlighted the opportunity to expand the operations of the shipyard which currently maintains ships for the Canal Authority as well as commercial work for small to mid-sized vessels. They pointed out that the shipyard has one of the largest floating dry docks in the Middle East. It has a length of 990 feet and a lifting capacity of 55,000 tons. The yard’s second dry dock has a length of 460 feet with a lifting capacity of 8,000 tons. The Canal Authority through partnerships with international companies is looking to expand its activity in commercial shipbuilding and repair, which could be used to support the Egyptian merchant marine.
Other developing nations have discussed similar plans to expand or modernize their domestic shipping operations. Vietnam recently published a study calling for investments of upwards of $1.5 billion to develop a modern fleet of containerships with a total of 25 ships over the next five years each with a capacity between 1,800 and 5,500 TEU. The fleet would be used to build intra-Asian shipping routes later expanded to include the Middle East. In the second phase, they call for larger vessels to provide global services including to North America and Europe.
The government of Thailand in September 2021 also said it was moving forward to re-establish its domestic shipping industry. Their plan called for working with an unnamed private company to charter ships and start service in June 2022 on domestic routes. The first service would be on the Gulf of Thailand transporting goods between Bangkok and industrial centers on the eastern coast and southeast. Longer-term they too were exploring developing international routes.