First test run of new expansion to Suez Canal complete
The first cargo ships completed a transit through Egypt's New Suez Canal on Saturday in a test-run ahead of its opening next month, state media reported.
The first test run, carried out by three cargo ships, comes 11 months after the army began constructing the US $8 billion canal alongside the existing 145-year-old Suez Canal.
The new waterway, which will double the capacity of the canal, allowing ships to sail in both directions for the first time, will help expand trade along the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi wants the canal to become a symbol of national pride while also helping combat Egypt's double-digit unemployment.
The old Suez Canal is a vital source of hard currency for Egypt, which has seen tourism and foreign investment fall significantly in the years of turmoil since a 2011 uprising.
One of the cargo ships was an American ship heading to Egypt's Port Said from Saudi Arabia, while the second was a Danish ship sailing to the United States from Singapore. A Bahraini ship going to Italy from Saudi Arabia was the last of the test run vessels to complete the transit.
The test run took place amid tight security. An ISIS-affiliated insurgency based in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders on the Suez Canal, has killed hundreds of soldiers and police since 2013.
ISIS has publicly said that it intends to target international shipping on the canal after the opening of the expansion.
State television reported that there were helicopters circling above, while footage from the event showed naval vessels escorting the ships.
Mohab Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority which has managed the project, told state television that this test-run had been a success and that more would follow.
Mameesh said at a press conference later in the day that construction of another canal near the East Port Said port on the Mediterranean Sea would begin as soon as the New Suez Canal had been inaugurated.
The East Port Said canal is expected to cost around US $60 million and will be 9.5 kilometers (6 miles) long, 18.5m deep, and 250m wide, with an expected completion time of 7 months.
The existing canal earns Egypt around US $5 billion per year and the New Suez Canal is supposed to increase those revenues to US $15 billion by 2023.