Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has inaugurated the Ismailia tunnel, aiming to ease the flow of traffic and cargo to and from the Sinai Peninsula.
The tunnel is meant to significantly improve connectivity between Suez Canal Container Terminal (SCCT) and key industrial zones in Greater Cairo. A second tunnel connecting Port Said is scheduled to open this summer.
The Ismailia tunnel, which runs under the Suez Canal, is the largest of its kind and has the capacity to handle 2,000 vehicles per hour in each direction.
The entrances to the tunnel, in both directions, are equipped with 10 scanners to scan vehicles and trailers entering the tunnel. They have the capacity of scanning up to 250 vehicles per hour while six of these 10 lanes will be completely dedicated to trucks and trailers.
A new six-lane highway also links SCCT’s location on the Sinai Peninsula with key metropolitan areas in the western part of the country.
The tunnel is expected to quickly ramp up to full operational mode. This will significantly improve truck journey times between Greater Cairo and SCCT, which are currently between two and three days, and reduce cost for the end customer.
SCCT’s CEO, Lars Vang Christensen, stated: “It is the first time we have seen this quality of roads and tunnels in this part of the world. Together with improved security around the port it’s truly an achievement of the highest international standard for Egypt. This new development will make SCCT the primary gateway for cargo in and out of Egypt.”
He added: “This is one of the final pieces of the jigsaw for ensuring we become the primary gateway to the region. We have an outstanding location, with no deviation for the main routes on trade lanes between Asia and Europe.”
Port tariffs were relaxed in November 2018, but Christensen is currently working closely with the Egyptian government to achieve further incentives that would restore the terminal’s competitiveness in the region and attract higher volumes.
Located at the northern entrance of the Suez Canal, around 95% of SCCT’s traffic is currently made up of transhipment volumes, largely catering to ships moving from South East Asia to the Mediterranean and Europe, as well as serving feeder lines in the Mediterranean and the Egyptian market.
Currently, the terminal has an annual capacity of 5.4 m teu. With the anticipated higher volumes, SCCT is planning to invest in taller cranes and equipment to service larger container ships. In the future the terminal also has the potential to expand the length of its quay by an additional 450 m.
The tunnel investment was part of the broader government Vision 2030, which focuses on creating jobs and a balanced market economy that is competitive on the world stage.
The port has lost significant container volumes in recent years, with stiff competition for transhipment volumes in the Mediterranean and the likes of Piraeus emerging as winners thus far.