The president said the new canal was symbolic of a “capable Egypt”, that it represented “the defeat of terrorism and hatred in the country” and was a “gift to the world from Egypt”.
In a highly politicised speech, the president, who arrived in military uniform but changed into civilian clothes for the main part of the ceremony, said: The new Suez Canal shows that Egyptians can overcome any challenge facing them and this includes terrorism. We will emerge victorious from our war with terrorism and violence and the canal gives us this hope.”
He stressed the significance of the canal as a catalyst for economic development in Egypt. “Egypt is not a one-project country and neither should it be,” said El Sisi. “The government has already announced projects to upgrade and expand the Suez Canal industrial zone, East Port Said port, Ismailia, Qantara and Sokhna port. We will also build a giant network of roads in Sinai. This is the Egypt of the future.”
Outside of Egypt, the new Suez Canal will enable the artery to handle more ship transits and thus trade. Indeed, the new channel will enable up to 95 ships transit the waterway every day, up from 47 transits previously.
Two convoys per day will now be dispatched rather than three, and transits for southbound vessels will be shortened by at least seven hours, from 18 hours prior to the opening of the new canal to 11 hours now. This will benefit carriers in terms of reduced bunker costs and emissions.
It is the enhanced operating flexibility of the Suez Canal that pleases Claus Hemmingsen, AP Møller-Maersk Group’s representative at the opening ceremony. He said: “Maersk is the largest customer of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) and as a company we will benefit from our vessels having shorter transit times and better schedule reliability. Overall, a larger number of bigger ships will be able to transit and that helps our flexibility too.”
He added: “The concerns we had that restrictions might be imposed on bigger ships have been eliminated and we know that better infrastructure enables growth in trade. The new Suez Canal is a very positive development.”
The Suez Canal accounts for approximately 8% of global maritime trade and significantly more of world container volumes. Currently, approximately 56% of tonnage handled by the canal is accounted for by containerships.
The first ships to transit the expanded Suez Canal were the CMA CGM LAPEROUSE (13,830 TEU) and the slightly smaller CMA CGM TITAN (11,388 TEU), both operated by Marseilles-based CMA CGM. The company is also a major customer of SCA, with 11 of its liner services transiting the canal.