CAIRO: The Egyptian government is considering building a $3 billion, 9.3-mile-long bridge between Saudi and Egypt in the aftermath of the sinking of the Egyptian ferry Salam Boccaccio 98 in the Red Sea on Feb. 3, 2006.
According to a media report referred to by the ministry of investment, the tragic incident that garnered massive international attention has sparked interest in a project to build an Egyptian-Saudi Arabian bridge across the waterway.
The ferry sank in the middle of the Red Sea on its way from the Saudi port of Duba to Safaga in Egypt, and left only 388 survivors from the more than 1,400 passengers on board, revived concern over the safety of sea travel between the Gulf and Egypt.
This is not the first time the idea of building a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Egypt has surfaced. The ministry of investment reported that the SeaNews.ru news agency reported that the idea of building this bridge was first proposed in 1982, evidence that the high waters of the red sea passage between the two countries was a concern as far back as in the ’80’s.
If the project goes through, an inter-Arab consortium led by Kuwait s Hurafi Financial Group would underwrite the construction, the report said.
Past studies for the project also banked on funding from Riyadh, which could use it as an opportunity to boost its trade.
The current plans for the bridge will establish a passageway between the southern tip of Egypt s Sinai Peninsula north of Sharm El-Sheikh with Saudi Arabia s Ras Hamid, across the Straits of Tiran.
Another project had also looked into the possibility of furthering the bridge north across the Gulf of Aqaba.
The project would also aid various industries in Egypt, as it would serve to create a new route for trade, tourists and pilgrims, something the government must have considered when the idea came up more than 20 years ago.
While the ministry never provided the government’s reasons to forgo building the bridge in the ’80’s, the media report referred to by the ministry sheds light on what could have been a major factor in their decision.
According to the report, current concerns about the project arose because it would be in a strategically sensitive area and might be used either as a transit route by terrorists or be subject to a terrorist attack.
The main problem is that it s a very sensitive and strategic area, not the least because Israel is very close. It would imply a major round of multilateral consultations, said prominent Egyptian architect and businessman Ibrahim Kamel, according to TradeArabia.com.
However, the project was never fully dismissed, according to Kamel.
“This project never really left the drawing board but it is totally feasible. The bridge wouldn t be too long and the relatively shallow sea in that area allows for such a construction, he said in remarks published in an AFP report.