Suez Canal expansion being targetted by ISIS militants
The newly expanded Suez Canal is set to open in a months’ time, but according to several media reports, sources in Cairo, the US and Europe have warned that ISIS is intending to target the strategic waterway.
ISIS last week pushed further into Egypt, with more than 100 killed in bitter fighting between security forces and the militant group in Sinai and the Suez Canal has been put on a high alert for attacks after an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday to bomb shipping in the canal.
“I’d say you can bet there will be more violence on the canal and don’t be surprised if you see yet another attack on ships transiting the canal in 2015,” Kevin Doherty, president of Nexus Consulting, an American security expert, told Splash.
“I’d wager this attack will end with both loss of life and significant environmental damages,” he added.
Doherty was referring to a September 2013 incident in which a COSCO container ship transiting the canal came under RPG fire from a brigade linked to al-Qaeda.
“Both Islamic State and the Muslim Brotherhood will do everything in their powers to try and disrupt the opening of the canal next month,” a separate security expert is quoted as saying.
However, some industry leaders in Egypt have sought to downplay the ISIS threat to the canal.
“Despite the latest fierce Sinai attacks, I believe the Egyptian state will do everything in its capacity to launch the new Suez Canal on August 6,” said Aly Fahmy Hashish, managing director of Egyptian maritime conglomerate Intership.
“Extensive security measures are currently being deployed in order to fulfil this aim,” he added.
The Suez Canal extension is a new 72 km-long channel that will enable convoys transiting the canal to navigate in both directions for the first time since the canal was first opened 146 years ago.
The expansion of the waterway will alleviate chronic congestion and provide Egypt with a much-needed boost in foreign currency, but Doherty has warned that shipping companies need to revise plans for alternative routing.
“Shipping companies really need to start thinking about or revisit older plans for alternative route planning in case of terrorist disruptions in the main travel lanes of the Med, Suez, West Africa, and Asia,” he said.
LogisticsMiddleEast.com, the online home of Maritime & Ports Middle East, reached out to MSC, Maersk Line, CMA CGM and the Suez Canal Authority for comment, but had received no response at the time of writing.