Egypt plans to widen the Suez Canal after March blockage

Egypt plans to widen the Suez Canal after March blockage
After maritime commerce was brought to a halt for days, Egypt now intends to widen a part of the canal to avoid a repetition of the March incident.
2 min read
11 May, 2021
The Ever Green cargo ship blocked the Suez Canal for days in March [Getty]

Egypt has announced plans to expand the southern stretch of the Suez Canal, after its blockage in March by a cargo ship caused maritime chaos for days.

Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabih said expansion plans would see the southernmost 30-kilometre stretch of the canal widen by 40 metres eastwards, according to Reuters. That section would also deepen the canal to 72 feet (21.9 meters) from 66 feet (20 meters).

The plan was announced by Rabie during an event attended by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who said the project must be completed within two years, reported Reuters.

The massive Ever Given container ship blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week in March, halting billions of dollars in maritime commerce.

An Egyptian court earlier this month rejected an appeal by the owner of the ship to release the vessel after it was seized over a financial dispute. The Suez Canal Authority is demanding $916 million in compensation, according to the UK Club, an insurer of the Ever Given. The ship remains in the Great Bitter Lake.

The Ever Given was on its way to the Dutch port of Rotterdam on 23 March when it slammed into the bank of a single-lane stretch of the canal about 6 kilometres north of the southern entrance, near the city of Suez.

A massive salvage effort by a flotilla of tugboats helped by the tides freed the skyscraper-sized, Panama-flagged Ever Given six days later, ending the crisis, and allowing hundreds of waiting ships to pass through the canal.

The blockage of the canal forced some ships to take the long alternate route around the Cape of Good Hope at Africa's southern tip, requiring additional fuel and other costs.

Hundreds of other ships waited in place for the blockage to end.

The shutdown, which raised worries of supply shortages and rising costs for consumers, added strain on the shipping industry, already under pressure from the coronavirus pandemic.

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