International Trade and Ports

Suez Canal Widening to Begin This Week

Corianne Egan, Associate Editor

The Suez Canal’s major deepening project is just over the horizon as crews will start widening and dredging a 34-kilometer strip in order to improve wait times for vessels using the canal. reported today that the long-awaited widening project could take years to complete, but dredging crews will begin within the next week. The canal’s website says the dredging will take the canal from 48 feet to 52 feet.

“This project will allow giant container ships heading south to pass through these channels and reduce … total transit time,” the website says.

Currently, on a typical day three convoys transit the canal, usually consisting of two southbound and one northbound trip. It takes between 11 and 16 hours to complete the passage at a speed of eight knots.

The Suez Canal has seen record traffic this year, partially because of delays and construction at the Panama Canal. For the first time, on all-water services from Asia to the East Coast, a greater percentage of the shipments will move through the Suez Canal than via the Panama Canal, according to Alphaliner.

In May, the Suez Canal Authority reported 526 ships passed through the canal, up 6.9 percent from April’s totals. The number of container ships passing through the Suez in May was the highest since May 2013, when 533 container vessels transited the canal.

The ships are also larger than the vessels that make their way through the Panama Canal. Parts of the Suez are 66 feet deep and can accommodate vessels as large as Maersk’s 18,270-TEU Triple E ships. In 2013, Drewry reported the average size of ships passing through the Suez Canal was 7,756 TEUs; the current maximum for ships using the Panama Canal is about 5,000 TEUs.


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