Jan de Nul’s cutter suction dredger the Ibn Battuta at work on the Suez Canal expansion project.

Jan de Nul’s cutter suction dredger the Ibn Battuta at work on the Suez Canal expansion project.

The Egyptian government has opened a new 30 km channel to increase the capacity of the Suez Canal. The new section is designed to allow two-way traffic on a long section of the hitherto largely single lane shipping route, cutting waiting times for vessels.

The expansion project was announced a year ago, with a budget of US$ 8.4 billion. Completing the work on time has seen a massive 259 million m3 of material dredged in less than 10 months.

One package of work was undertaken by the Egyptian army, with lots 2, 3, 4 and 5 being won by the Challenge Consortium, a grouping of the big names in the global dredging business – Boskalis Westminster, Jan de Nul and Van Oord, along with UAE-headquartered NMDC – each with a 25% share.

Their contract involved the dredging of 194 million m3 of material, for which Jan de Nul alone mobilised seven cutter suction dredgers with total installed power of 106 GW. The client, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), said a total of 45 dredgers were used on the project.

Although the 193 km Suez Canal previously had are six passing areas and double-width sections, with a total length of 80.5 km, most of the canal was limited to one-way traffic. This has restricted its capacity to an average of 49 vessels per day, and also exacerbated waiting times for ships wishing to travel against the flow on any given day.

The expansion project has seen the conversion of one of the passing areas – the Ballah Bypass – to a 35 km long channel, along with the dredging of an additional existing section.

According to the SCA this will allow up to 45 ships to use the canal without stopping at any given time, and will take the waiting time down to below three hours from the current 11 hours. It says the aim is to increase traffic flows to an average of 97 vessels per day by 2023, up from the current 49. This will also increase toll revenues for the Egyptian Government.

A full report on the expansion of the Suez Canal will be included in the October edition of International Construction. Sign-up here for a FREE subscription.

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