ISMAILIA: The new Two Seas Canal project, whose feasibility study is currently underway, will pose a fatal threat to the environment in the Red Sea, said Ahmed Ali Fadel, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority Sunday.
Even though it will have no negative effect on the Suez Canal’s economy, it will, however be an environmental disaster, Fadel said at a press conference marking the 53rd anniversary of nationalizing the Suez Canal.
Consisting of a pipeline and a small waterway, the project aims to connect the Dead Sea and the Red Sea under a three-party agreement between Jordan, the Palestine Authority and Israel.
“The new proposed Canal, if constructed, will harm the environment in the Gulf of Aqaba as the [strong] water stream coming out from the pipeline will threaten the environment in the Ras Mohamed zone, said the SCA chairman.
According to the feasibility study, the pipeline will cause a strong current with five to six million cubic meters gushing out of it, which will damage the coral reefs.
Fadel also said that piracy at the Gulf of Aden is not targeting vessels coming into or leaving the Suez Canal, as evidenced by the fact that a Saudi ship was seized by Somali pirates as it maneuvered around the Cape of the Good Hope.
The effects of piracy, he added, have been over-hyped by the media.
“Piracy exists everywhere in the world, he said, “it started to be a threat in the early 1990s, but spiked in 2003 when a Saudi oil tanker [worth $100 million] was seized prompting action from several countries which sent their military ships to the Gulf of Aden.
Last October, the NATO military alliance agreed to join anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia amid growing calls for action against armed gangs, which had attacked scores of vessels this year. On December 8, 2008, international forces signed the Atlanta treaty to protect the Gulf of Aden.
“It’s not a Suez Canal issue, Fadel told the press, “it’s about [safety] of routes. 20,000 to 25,000 oil cargo ships pass annually through international maritime routes. The Gulf of Aden is an active zone . it accounts for 50 percent of the total oil transferred in the world.
Responding to a question by Daily News Egypt’s regarding long-term business impact on for the Suez Canal, in light of the completion of the Panama Canal and the building of terrestrial routes between Europe and Asia, Fadel said that with current developments underway in the Suez Canal to deepen it to 66 feet, the Canal will be competitive. He estimated that 98 percent of goods vessels and 64 percent of the world’s oil cargo fleet will be able to go through it.
Fadel also assured that the impact of the financial crisis has started to ease, as seen by the graduallslump then rise in revenues from October 2008 until June 2009.
In October 2008, the Canal brought in $467.5 million, in November $419 million, December $391 million, January 2009 $332 million, February $301 million, March $327 million, April $346 million, May $346 million and June $348 million.
“And we expect that July 2009 will bring in revenue consistent with the same raising trend, he said.
To cope with the crisis, said Fadel, the Suez Canal Authority had offered incentives for certain categories of vessels such as ships on long-distance routes, mega ships that cross the Canal empty, environmental friendly ships, tourism ships and ships carrying Liquefied Natural Gas.
In 2009 the SCA also decided not to raise the passage fees based on intensive meetings with financial and legal experts.
Regarding the thorny issue of the recent passage of Israeli military vessels across the Canal, Fadel told the media that Egypt respects the treaties it has signed, whereby Egypt is committed to allow all the military vessels to pass through the Suez Canal, as long as they harbor no hostile intentions.
“Some are calling for the dismissal of the 1888 treaty, but this would raise questions about the Nile Basin treaty which was signed by Britain on behalf of Egypt to preserve Egypt’s rights over Nile water, said Fadel.
“Even when [former Egyptian President] Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal, he expressed Egypt’s commitment to previous treaties.