The Suez Canal, the shortest maritime route between the east and the west, has contributed to the promotion of international trade between countries both north and south of it. Ever since its reopening in 1975, world trade changed dramatically. Exchange activity in the ports of Europe, East Africa and the Red Sea were re-activated and the price of maritime transport fares, and raw materials were reduced. The result was a more competitive trade market catering to the interests of the consumer. Since its re-opening the Suez Canal generated $30 billion in revenues, Al-Mustaqbal daily reported on July, 2. From 1975 until the present time, 447,000 vessels have crossed the canal and have carried 8.5 billion tons of cargo.
In recent years, Canal development has continued. The draft was deepened to 59ft, mobile dock units were completed and equipment necessary to build tug boats, motor boats, suction dredgers and cranes were purchased. Extreme efforts were made to stay updated with the advanced engineering technology related to maritime science for international navigation. The greater part of the investments to upgrade the Canal were funded by the Egyptian Ministry of Transportation and Communication in addition to the Suez Canal Authority and the Radio Television Union. The Ministry’s estimated share of the funding came to LE 1.7 billion.
According to the Egyptian State Information Service, the Suez Canal’s annual revenues as of June 1999 rose to $143.3 million compared to $139.7 of the same period in the previous year. Registered revenues on a monthly basis amounted to $139.4 as of May 1999 and a monthly report of the Cabinet Information and Decision-Support Center stated that a total of 1076 ships transited the canal in June compared to 1077 in the previous year. In addition, 150 oil tankers passed through the canal in June 1999 compared to 148 in May and 173 in June of 1998.
In addition to the canal’s productivity, the world’s two highest and longest bridges have been built across the Suez Canal, linking the Nile Valley with Sinai. The bridges are a part of the National Scheme for Developing Sinai, in addition to the digging of the Al-Salam Canal and the cultivation of nearly half a million feddans. It is estimated that the bridges, one for trains and the other for cars will boost investment in Sinai. The new bridges will secure easy and smooth traffic and will serve commodity and cargo transports between the Middle East and North African countries. The draw bridge, built for trains will allow large vessels to pass through the canal safely. It will be the longest draw bridge in the world to date, as the metal portion measures 640 meters and the navigation gate extends to 340 meters. The second bridge is stationary and will be the highest in the world. It will allow for vessels as high as 70 meters to navigate. This 9500 meter long bridge cost 630 million pounds, of which 60% was funded by the Japanese government.