Egypt to allow 24-hour access to East Port Said with new waterway

 Egypt plans to allow smaller vessels in the Mediterranean direct access to East Port Said around the clock instead of just eight hours a day by building a side channel near the Suez Canal, which will speed up shipping movements in the area.

Klaus Holm Laursen, managing director of Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT), the company partially financing the project, told Reuters on Tuesday the project would allow vessels to enter and exit East Port Said, and divert traffic from the canal's entrance.

SCCT is 55 percent owned by APM Terminals, part of the Maersk group, and is paying $15 million into the project which a senior Suez Canal Authority source said would cost $60 million to build.

"The waterway will benefit the entire east port, not just SCCT. You can't have a seaport without having any ships; it's like having an airport without a runway," Laursen said.

Egypt plans to build the new side channel after it unveils a new Suez Canal next month and hopes it will be one of the first projects in a planned international industrial and logistics hub to be built around the canal.

A Suez Canal Authority source told Reuters the new channel would be 9.5 km (6 miles) long, 18.5 metres deep, and 250 metres wide and take around seven months to build.

Currently every vessel that comes through East or West Port Said has to be coordinated with the Suez Canal convoy.

"Since Egypt wants to have as many ships as possible in the convoy because the Suez Canal is where it makes most money, this does not leave many hours free for sailing in and out of the East or West ports," Laursen said.

SCCT's agreement with the Egyptian government was updated in 2007 to require the company to pay $15 million into the side channel's construction. SCCT paid half the amount in 2010 and will pay the rest upon the project's completion, which was initially scheduled for 2012, Laursen said.

An APM Terminals spokesman in The Hague confirmed the terms of the payment.

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