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Suez Canal Improving Navigation by Widening and Deepening Sections

improvements to navigation in Suez Canal
Efforts will improve navigation and expand two-way traffic (Suez Cal Authority file photo)

Published Feb 16, 2022 9:06 PM by The Maritime Executive

Work is proceeding on schedule for an effort to improve navigation in some of the more challenging portions of the Suez Canal. During a tour of the areas, the Suez Canal Authority reported that the work is 14 percent complete and will be finished by June 2023. When completed, they will have increased nearly half of the canal to two-way traffic.

Highlighting the progress, Lieutenant-General Osama Rabie, head of the Suez Canal Authority, said that the schedule for the work had been advanced after the grounding of the Ever Given nearly a year ago. Instead of the plan to start working in January 2022, the Authority began preparations last June and now 50 percent of the groundwork has been completed. This includes the creation of sedimentation basins and in total, 11 million cubic meters of water-saturated sand has already been removed by the dredges.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered the Suez Canal Authority to undertake the project. Rabie said they were “strengthening efforts to improve the navigational services provided to transiting ships in a way that can maintain the canal’s leadership and strengthen its vital role in serving global trade.”

A portion of the project focuses on the area near where the Ever Given grounded. They are widening the canal as well as deepening the navigation channel. Rabie said the efforts were also working to smooth out bends in the canal which would help to reduce the impact of the southerly winds on navigation. He referred to the area as the most difficult portion of the Suez Canal. Approximately 2.6 million cubic meters of sand have already been removed from this area.

In the Lesser Bitter Lakes region, dredges are currently working on widening the Suez Canal to accommodate approximately six additional miles of two-way traffic. They have already removed 8.4 million cubic meters of water-saturated sand in that area. When completed, a total of over 50 miles, or nearly half the total length of the Suez Canal, will be able to handle two-way traffic. Rabie said it was too costly at this time to widen the entire channel for two-way traffic.

The entire project will be completed in a total of 24 months since it began with an estimated cost of nearly $200 million. Transit time in the canal will remain 11 hours but when completed they will have improved the navigation and provided additional capacity to support the growth in transits.