The Egyptian government has given the go-ahead for work to widen and deepen the Suez Canel to permit the passage of supertankers, a spokesman for the canal authority said Thursday.
The 441 million-dollar project will allow the use of 200,000 tonne ships of 62-foot (20.5 meter) draft next year, compared with 60 feet now, spokesman Hassan Refaat told AFP.
By 2005, 250,000 tonne ships with 66-foot drafts will be able to use the canal, followed five years later by 350,000 tonne vessels of 72-foot draft, the limit under an international environmental agreement that goes into effect in 2015.
The expansion work will increase the width of the Suez Canel from 345 to 400 meters (380 to 440 yards) and its depth from 22 to 25 meters (72 feet to 82 feet), bringing in enough water to permit the passage of 92 percent of existing commercial ships, Refaat said.
The project, approved earlier this week by Prime Minister Atef Abeid, will be financed entirely by Egypt and canal revenue, the spokesman said.
The Suez Canal earned $1.868 billion in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, up 5.8 percent from the year before, due largely to a revival of business in southeast Asia, according to the canal authority.
© Agence France Presse 2000