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  August 6th, 2015 | Written by

New Suez Canal Opens Today

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  • Egyptian government officials claim that the new Suez Canal will be competitive with the Panama Canal.
  • Some industry observers are skeptical of Egyptian claims, as the original canal has been operating at full capacity.
  • U.S.- and Dutch-led consortia shared responsibility for the dredging of the new Suez Canal.

An inauguration ceremony for the new Suez Canal was held in Egypt today.

The new canal is in reality a parallel channel alongside a 43-mile stretch of the existing waterway, about one-third of its entire length. The project also includes two service channels and two cross channels which connect the existing and the new canals.

Egyptian government officials claim that the new project will significantly enhance the competitiveness of the Suez Canal, allowing it to absorb 25 percent of the commercial traffic that crosses through the Panama Canal. They argue that the new canal allows for the passage of all types of cargo ships of various sizes, from giant oil tankers to large container ships, which will encourage global shipping companies, to pass through the Suez Canal instead of the Panama Canal. A study sponsored by the government of Egypt showed that the greatest impact will involve trade between Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam and India with Europe and that it could also impact lanes such as Hong Kong to New York, Shanghai and New York, and Shanghai to Houston.

Some industry observers are skeptical of these claims, noting the original canal has been operating at full capacity for some time.

The commercial merits of the project aside, building the new canal was a major dredging undertaking. A U.S. company, the Illinois-based Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Corporation, was involved in dredging part of the new canal.

“The new Suez Canal project was an incredible achievement for the global dredging community,” said David Simonelli, president of the company’s dredging division. “Great Lakes was pleased to work again on the world stage executing this monumental project.”

Great Lakes is the largest provider of dredging services in the United States and the only U.S. dredging company with significant international operations.

Great Lakes, along with its consortium partner Dredging International NV, was responsible for dredging 1.4 billion cubic feet to a 79-foot depth along an 18-mile stretch of the canal under a contract valued at $600 million. The company mobilized its Middle East-based heavy duty, high production cutter suction dredges, the Carolina and the Ohio, as well as their auxiliary support equipment and the trailing suction hopper dredge Sugar Island, to execute its portion of the work.

Much of the rest of the project was dredged a Dutch-led consortium which included the Dutch companies Boskalis and Van Oord as well as NMDC of Abu Dhabi and Jan de Nul of Belgium. The consortium dredged 22 miles of the new canal, removing over seven billion cubic feet of sand, clay and rock in less than 9 months. The also dredged the two service and the two cross channels.