Egypt’s expansion of the Suez Canal, an $8.6 billion project that will see one of the world’s great engineering feats extended to incorporate two-way traffic via the addition of a new 72km channel, is set for completion on 6 August. This is expected to reduce the waiting time for transiting vessels by eight hours, in what is one of the most important checkpoints of the journey from East to West, and vice versa.

A month ahead of the official opening, Captain Yasser Gamal, who is operation manager for local agent MEESA Egypt spoke exclusively to about the impact this new channel will have on the efficacy of transiting for seasonal superyacht migration.

“There are currently two convoys – one of 25 ships at 01:00, and another at 07:00; then there is a northbound convoy at 06:00. The problem is that the canal can only accommodate one-way passage so the convoy coming from Port Said to the Red Sea must drop anchor at the Bitter Lake, waiting for the ships coming the other way to pass. All ships are delayed around seven hours”, he explained.

Gamal said that the significance for transiting superyachts was huge, with average journey times falling from a predicted 17 to nine hours. He also quoted figures predicting a rise in traffic from 49 vessels per day to 97. And this new passage will easily be able to accommodate even the largest superyachts, with its draft of 20m.

As a direct route from the northern hemisphere to cruising grounds in the Indian Ocean, South East Asia and the South Pacific, Suez is an important maritime landmark, and practically speaking, shorter than the Panama Canal route, for most. But it occupies an area that continues to be blighted by numerous security concerns. However, Gamal claims that, despite a dip in superyacht traffic through the canal in recent years, numbers are now on the up.

While a possible rise in traffic in this fragile region is a point of contention, it is a trend attested to by Giovanni Paolo Risso, chairman and CEO of European-headquartered Cambiaso & Risso Group. The company has now opened a Dubai-based hub serving superyacht clients in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

“We have been operating in the Middle East since 2011. The successful operations at Singapore and Hong Kong offices convinced our group to strengthen our presence in the Middle East and Indian subcontinent. This area is growing and becoming a real reference point in the maritime cluster… we want to play a major role in this region.”

Giovani Paolo Risso.

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