Dredging work to extend a second lane of the Suez Canal has begun, with a widened and deepened southern section of the vital waterway due to open to giant container ships by 2023.
The Suez Canal Authority said on Saturday that work was under way, only a week after announcing the plan to extend the waterway near the spot where the giant container shipEver Givenbecame stuck for six days in March.
The plan includes widening the canal’s southernmost stretch by about 40 metres to the east, on the side of the Sinai Peninsula. That segment would also be deepened to 72 feet, from the current 66 feet in depth in a stretch of canal 30 kilometres long.
The plan also includes a 10km extension of a second lane of the waterway that opened in 2015. That would extend the double-lane stretch of the canal to 82km, allowing more vessels to pass through the canal.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi gave directions “to immediately start implementing the proposed development plan and put in place a timetable for completion as soon as possible”, the authority said on Saturday.
The grounding of the 440-metre Ever Given in a southern section of the canal from March 23 to March 29 delayed the passage of hundreds of vessels through the waterway, disrupting global trade.
About 10 per cent of world trade flows through the canal, a pivotal source of foreign currency to Egypt. More than 19,000 vessels passed through the canal last year, according to official figures.
TheEver Given, still loaded with thousands of containers, is being held in the Great Bitter Lake between two stretches of the canal, amid a dispute over a compensation claim brought by the canal authority against the ship’s Japanese owner Shoei Kisen.