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Egyptians Celebrate Opening of “New” Suez Canal

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, left, and Mohab Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, watch the ceremony from a historic yacht in Ismailia.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, left, and Mohab Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, watch the ceremony from a historic yacht in Ismailia.

Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Presidency

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al Sisi formally opened the “new” Suez Canal on August 6 in an elaborate ceremony in the canal city of Ismailia.

Representatives from the dredging companies in the two joint ventures (JVs) that created the new canal shipping lanes were on hand for the ceremony.

A delegation from the DEME group attended, along with Flemish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Kris Peeters. DEME’s Dredging International participated in one of the JVs with Great Lakes Dredge & Dock Company.

Representatives from the second joint venture, consisting of NMDC, Jan De Nul, Royal Boskalis Westminster N.V., and Van Oord were also on hand.

Together, the six dredging companies moved 250 million cubic meters (327 million cubic yards) of sand and clay to create a new 35-km-long, 24-meter-deep (22-mile-long, 78.7-foot-deep) canal adjacent to the existing canal and to deepen and widen the 25-kilometers (15.5 miles) of shipping channel in Great Bitter Lake at the southern end of the canal. Dredging began in August 2014, with a strict time line of one year to complete all the dredging, a deadline they met, at a cost of US$9 billion.

The construction project employed 43,000 people.

At the ceremony, Mohab Mamish, head of the Suez Canal Authority, announced that the new channel running alongside the original canal was ready to receive ships of all kinds. Three container ships had traversed the new stretch of the canal during a trial prior to the ceremony, Mamish said, which was “…equivalent to the passing of the nation from darkness to light.”

The entrance of the new section of the Suez Canal, seen from the Al Salam “Peace” bridge on the Ismailia desert road on August 6 prior to the ceremony. Amr Nabil/AP

The project was a challenge because of its size but above all because of the very tight deadline. To complete such a project in less than twelve months is unprecedented, said J.F.J. De Nul, president and founder of Jan De Nul.

“The only way to realize this project was for us dredgers to join forces,” he said. “In all, six dredging companies participated in the project, divided over two joint ventures.”

Jan de Nul’s dredges moved 33.4 percent of all the material in this project “and that is something we are very proud of,” said De Nul.

The company’s powerful cutter dredges were the right tool to move the compacted sand and heavy clay in the canal, he said.

Alain Bernard, DEME Group CEO said, “The Suez project was an exceptional assignment on different levels. Despite the important organizational and logistical challenges, the contract has been brought to an end within the time frame and budget that were set. This was only possible thanks to a strong team of specialists who have shown remarkable flexibility. As a result, the Suez project forms another appealing advertisement for the DEME Group.”

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