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Egypt says Suez project steaming ahead, tolls unchanged

Source: Associated Press – Egypt: Transit tolls at Egypt’s Suez Canal will stay largely at their current prices this year, the authority said Wednesday, as development of a second parallel waterway proceeds on schedule.
Authority chief Mohab Mameesh said that the canal, which generates a main source of income for the Arab world’s most populous country, would open its second lane as expected in August.

The project has been the focus of much hope and attention in Egypt, where several years of tumult following a 2011 uprising have left the economy battered.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered a faster digging schedule at an inauguration ceremony last year, saying the urgency of Egypt’s situation meant the project could not wait for the planned three-year timetable.

The canal earned a record $5.455 billion in revenue last year – the most lucrative since its inauguration in 1869 – compared to $5.105 billion the previous year, the authority said.

Mameesh said the toll structure was left unchanged as an incentive for ships at a time when lower oil prices could make the alternate route around Africa attractive.

“The fuel price has dropped all over the world. Raising the transit toll would make it easier for ships to travel around the Cape of Good Hope,” he told reporters in the canal city of Ismailia.

The only change for 2015 would be for liquefied natural gas shippers, who will see their toll discount cut to 25 percent from 35 percent, he said.

The canal is one of the world’s busiest water corridors and the strategic link between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. It employs some 25,000 Egyptians.

The government has said the new canal section will shorten the waiting period from 11 to three hours.

Mameesh announced that workers had accomplished 86 percent of the new canal’s dry digging and 21 percent of its dredging. Some 35 kilometers had been dug so far and 10 kilometers dredged, he said, adding that the cost of the project stood at $8.2 billion.

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