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Backgrounder: Suez Canal in facts and numbers

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-08-07 09:08

CAIRO - Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated on Thursday the new Suez Canal along with nearly 800 world leaders and officials representing 121 countries.

The new expansion flanks the existing 145-year-old waterway.

The Suez Canal is a 193-km artificial sea-level water passage, which links the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

The canal is divided lengthwise into two divisions north and south of the Great Bitter Lake, with two horizontal lanes connecting Europe and Asia.

It offered the quickest shipping route between Asia and Europe and saving an estimated 15 days of journey time on average if it passes via Cape of Good Hope.

With the coming of the French invasion in 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte expressed desire for digging the canal, but his wishes have been aborted at that time.

In 1854, Khedive Said ordered the digging, which took 10 years.

120,000 Egyptians from the one million workers have been killed during the digging.

The Suez Canal was inaugurated in 1869.

The pan-Arabist president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal in 1956, which was until then run by the British and French- owned Suez Canal Company, sparking the Suez crisis in which Britain, France and Israel invaded parts of Egypt.

The 1967 Egypt-Israel war has caused the closure of the Suez Canal for more than eight years, and then President Anwar al-Sadat reopened it in 1975.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered in August 2014 the new passageway be completed within a year, instead of the original three-year projection.

The new parallel waterway is 35 km long. That, in addition to 37 km of the existing canal that has been deepened and widened, which brings the project to 72 km in total.

The government said the new Suez Canal will allow two-directional traffic and cut the crossing time from 18 to 11 hours.

The new Suez Canal absorbs giant vessels with 66 feet sinker.

The new canal costs nearly four billion dollars and includes six tunnels for cars and railways that will be established following the opening ceremony with another four billion dollars.

Total cost of the canal and the annexed tunnels is eight billion dollars that has been collected from the Egyptians in form of investment certificates.

The Suez Canal Authority says more than 43,000 people worked on digging and constructing the new canal.

According the Suez Canal Authority, after its expansion, the daily average number of passing vessels will nearly double to 97 by 2023 from 49 currently.

It will also raise the Suez Canal ranking at the international negation level, and its revenues will be increased to 13.2 billion dollars by 2023 instead of 5.3 billion dollars in 2014.

The Suez Canal is run by independent authority since its nationalization in 1956.

Since its establishment, six officials have headed the authority, last of which is the current chairman Mohab Mamish.

To increase its investments, president al-Sisi has issued in July a legislation that entitles the Suez Canal authority to establish joint stock companies.

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