Suez Canal deepening to begin
The Suez Canal, seen from a helicopter, near Ismailia, Egypt. Photo:PA
A major dredging project that will deepen a 34km section of the Suez Canal’s western channels by 1.2m to 15.8m is scheduled to get under way this week.
"This project will allow giant container ships heading south to pass through these channels and reduce total transit time," the canal authority stated.
The long-awaited project has no scheduled end date and could take many months to complete.
The canal has its own dredging fleet and a further project, to widen anchorage areas in Great Bitter Lake and at the tips of the western channels, is also planned.
It comes as the Suez Canal posts record traffic movements this year, partially because of delays at the Panama Canal as the latter’s expansion project continues.
For the first time, on all-water services from Asia, more ships are moving through the Suez Canal than the Panama Canal.
In May this year, the Suez Canal Authority stated that 704 ships passed through the canal, up 6.9% on the previous month.
Of them, 256 were container vessels – by far the majority – and as the authority points out, the average size container ship passing through the canal is about 7,750teu, while the current maximum for ships using the Panama Canal is about 5,500teu.
The voyage from Murmansk to Japan takes 18.1 days through the Northern Sea Route, compared with 37.1 days through the Suez Canal. A Rotterdam/Far East voyage takes 23 days through the Northern Sea, 10 days less than through the Suez Canal.
There will be more LPG exports from the US Gulf, West Africa and Algeria into Asia this year due to growing arbitrage opportunities, a consultancy has predicted.
FACTS Global Energy projected that the West-East arbitrage trade will hit 3.7M tonnes this year or around 10% of Asia’s total LPG imports, up from 2.3M tonnes in 2013.
FACTS cited growing LPG production in the West of Suez, led by the shale gas revolution in the United States. The West-East LPG arbitrage trade was nearly 1.7M tonnes over the first four months of 2014. In April alone, the loadings bound to the East totalled 585,000 tonnes, nearly 100,000 tonnes more than March.
FACTS said: "Buyers in the East of Suez are buying more LPG from North and West Africa and the US, in view of diversifying their sources." US LPG exports would continue to buoy the market until the Panama Canal expansion is ready in 2016, said FACTS.
This is because currently, only four VLGCs – Ronald N, Caroline N, Clipper Star and Clipper Sirius – are able to transit the current dimensions of the canal. As a result, the current US Gulf-Far East trip takes at least 41 days, compared to 21 days for the Gulf-Far East route. The Middle East remains the biggest supplier of LPG to Asia.