The Suez Canal in Egypt connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. It is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia – cargo ships don’t have to sail around Africa to navigate from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean – and it is also one of the world’s most used waterways. Since the completion of the New Suez Canal in 2015, the canal is now an even faster route and able to welcome even more vessels.
The original Suez Canal opened in 1869 and was 164 kilometres long with a depth of eight metres. It has been deepened and widened by dredgers numerous times to allow cargo ships of increasing size to pass through. However, in some places the canal was still not wide enough for vessels to pass each other. Large sections were only suitable for one-way traffic and, as a result, ships had to sail in convoys and wait in basins for the other convoy to pass. To accommodate the rise in global trade, Egypt announced the construction of the New Suez Canal in 2014.
The New Suez Canal project included the dredging of a parallel canal over a total length of 35 kilometres and the deepening and widening of 37 kilometres of the existing canal to a depth of 24 metres. The 8.2-billion US dollar project was executed by a consortium of Boskalis, Van Oord, NMDC and Jan De Nul Group, and a consortium of Dredging International (DEME) and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company. A total of 45 dredgers, including cutter suction dredgers and trailing suction hopper dredgers, was deployed for the task. In record-breaking speed, they dredged 258.8 million cubic metres of soil. The project was completed in a one-year period.
With the completion of the New Suez Canal, the convoys that pass through the canal are now of a larger size and waiting times are reduced significantly. The dredging work resulted in a near doubling of the daily capacity, the transit time for southbound traffic has been shortened from 18 hours to 11 hours, and ships with a draft of up to 20.1 metres (66ft) can now pass through the canal.