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Live From SMME 2016

Suez Canal Authority doing everything right to transform Egypt’s ailing economy: Drewry

Suez Canal Authority doing everything right to transform Egypt’s ailing economy: Drewry
Low bunker prices, the slowdown of global trade and increased competition from the Panama Canal might be impacting the Suez Canal today, but long term the historic waterway is making all the right moves to transform Egypt’s ailing economy.

That is the forecast from Tim Power, managing director of shipping consultancy Drewry, who told an audience at Seatrade Maritime Middle East (SMME) on Monday that the now dual carriage waterway had the potential to become the epicentre of a new “Dubai” scale maritime hub.

Power was part of panel, headlined by Suez Canal Authority chairman and managing director Admiral Mohab Mameesh, which outlined progress a year on from the $8bn expansion of the Canal and explored New Silk Road (One Belt One Road OBOR) opportunities and potential private investment opportunities in the ports and new industrial zones earmarked along the waterway.

The Suez Canal has been the lifeblood of the Egyptian economy for more than 150 years and the potential of the new industrial and logistics zones, combined with Egypt’s untapped oil and gas wealth, are immense, Power said.

“Lets us imagine a situation where Egypt has very competitive energy costs, a large pool of relatively competitively priced labour and an environment where it is able to attract foreign direct investment to set up all the kind of industries that we see [outlined today],” Power said.

“I want to draw a parallel between that general idea and what we see today in Dubai. Why is Jebel Ali the must call port in the Arabian Gulf? It’s because the free zone and all the cargo that moves in and out of that free zone, it’s the kind of black hole that makes every container shipping line want to come.

“So if you combine the connectively of the [Suez] Canal with the kind of industrial development, cost competitiveness that perhaps, if we are lucky, this Canal Zone can create, then you could see the Egyptian economy transformed. You have a huge consumer market, a very short distance from Europe in the Mediterranean…it must be an enormous prize and the Canal’s relevance to that is also enormous.”

Admiral Mameesh told the conference “you will hear of a new payment system in the Suez Canal to attract the ships” as the SCA continued to respond to market forces.

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