ALEXBANK and the SRM, a Center for Economic Studies based in the Italian city of Naples, co-hosted a webinar last week on the pivotal role Egypt’s Suez Canal plays in the global maritime economy.
The webinar, held under the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Cairo, was titled “The Pivotal Role of the Suez Canal in the Mediterranean Sea and the Global Maritime Economy”.
It was organised to present the latest joint report on traffic in the Suez Canal by the SRM and ALEXBANK, as well as the canal’s evolution in the Mediterranean Sea and the maritime economy.
ALEXBANK and the SRM have been working together since the Suez Canal’s expansion in 2015. This partnership has aimed to analyse the actual performance of one of the world’s most important waterways and its prospects.
The co-operation has resulted in the publication of three comprehensive reports on the subject, with the latest one focusing on the Suez Canal’s performance following the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). It also highlights the magnitude and impact of the ongoing developments in the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone).
The webinar was held in the presence of: Giampaolo Cantini, the Italian Ambassador to Egypt; Osama Rabie, Chairperson of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA); Reda Ismail, Deputy Minister of Transportation; Dante Campioni, Managing Director and CEO of ALEXBANK; Yehia Zaki, Chairperson of the SCZone; Ziad Bahaa El-Din, Non-executive Chairperson of ALEXBANK; and Zeno D’Agostino, Vice President of the European Sea Ports Organization.
Combined together, the attendees also provided their distinctive knowledge and experience at a roundtable discussing topics under the headline, “Egyptian Maritime Economy: A Vital Economy with Accelerating Growth”.
Ambassador Cantini said, “The Suez Canal is a strategic hub for Italy, just as thanks to its geographic location, Italy is the natural gateway to Europe for Asian goods.”
He added, “In fact, as mentioned in the report, 40% of all the goods that arrive to Italy by ship transit through the Suez Canal, and in 2020, this amounted to a total value of €82.8bn.”
For his part, Rabie said, “With support from the political leadership for a better future, the Suez Canal Authority launched a comprehensive programme for expanding and deepening 30 km in the southern part of the Suez Canal, starting from the 132nd to the 162nd km.”
“Additionally, the canal routes will be doubled with 10 km long in the Small Bitter Lakes area, improving maritime transport by decreasing the passage time while increasing the rate of passing ships to six per day,” he added.
Rabie also noted that this project will be carried out depending on the SCA’s capabilities, including giant dredgers, naval auxiliary units, and logistics. Tahady, a subsidiary of the authority which specialises in maritime dredging, will be participating in the expansion project as well.
He noted that this emphasises Egypt’s keenness on developing the canal according to global maritime trends. It provides all the requirements needed to maintain and grow the Suez Canal’s contribution to global trade at its highest rates.
Massimo Deandreis, General Manager of SRM, Alessandro Panaro, Head of the Maritime Department at SRM, and Samer Halim, Head of Research Office at ALEXBANK, presented an overview of the report highlighting the new centrality of the Mediterranean Sea. They also highlighted the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on maritime and global trades, and key industrial and infrastructural investments in the SCZone.
Campioni said, “As we publish our third report on the Suez Canal in partnership with SRM, we reaffirm ALEXBANK and Intesa Sanpaolo Group’s commitment towards Egypt’s economic development, to which the Suez Canal and the SCZone are already contributing and which can further contribute substantially.”
For his part, Deandreis said, “Even during the pandemic peak, when a consistent part of world trade plummeted, the Suez Canal showed to be resilient with only a minimal decrease of -0.3% in terms of numbers of ships and -3% in terms of traffic tonnage.”
“As the case of the incident of the Ever Given ship clearly demonstrated, this passage has become (especially after the enlargement in 2015) one of the most strategic points in the world, accounting for 12% of global traffic,” he added, “At the same time, this area, thanks also to the positive evolution of the Free Zone Area and Port Said, is now becoming emblematic of the growing centrality of the Mediterranean in the global maritime routes and trade.”
Deandreis said that these are the reason why, together with ALEXBANK, SRM is constantly monitoring the Suez Canal, and regularly preparing reports similar to the report presented at the webinar.
“We strongly believe that this area will remain crucial for next decades and its improvement and development will be essential to foster maritime traffic and ports efficiency in all the Mediterranean area,” he added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Minister of Transportation Reda Ismail highlighted the importance of Egypt’s successful partnership with Italy in various aspects of maritime economy.
Both parties were keen to develop maritime relations and work together under the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. He also presented an overview of the actions taken regarding the Egyptian maritime sector to counter the repercussions of the pandemic, and guarantee the continuation of maritime trade.
Ismail highlighted the Egyptian Government’s efforts towards developing the country’s maritime system, and maintain fruitful collaboration between the two countries.
It is worth mentioning that ALEXBANK released the first edition of its report on the Suez Canal in 2015, to analyse the impact of the doubling of the Canal on Mediterranean trade.
In 2018, the bank published the second report, which focused in particular on the effects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and investments in the SCZone, one of the most important economic zones in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The latest report is now available on ALEXBANK’s and SRM websites.