The Suez Canal in Egypt faces serious and serious threats from alternative regional and international projects that threaten its future as the most important global shipping lane.
Several major projects have surfaced, backed by countries such as Russia, China, Iran and Israel.
The serious challenges to the vital navigational passage for Egypt come from Arab countries that rushed to reconcile with Israel, as they employ their financial capabilities to support projects for land and sea transport, to unite with parallel projects across the Persian Gulf and Iran, which avoid passing through the navigational corridor.
While some Egyptian officials like to brag about the inability of any alternative projects to pursue the ability of the Egyptian Suez Canal to increase the tonnage and number of ships and reduce transit costs with the safety of trucks and individuals, navigation and economic experts confirm that these projects, some of which have already begun to be implemented, represent a real threat to the canal, especially.
The successive governments in Egypt deviated from the path of developing the shipping lane as an economic development project that achieves a comprehensive renaissance in the country.
Overall, there are 12 projects proposed to compete with the Suez Canal, 4 of which are the most influential.
The navigation corridor across the Arctic Ocean, which connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and was tested a few days ago, is considered one of the most dangerous passages threatening the Suez Canal, as Russia began, in cooperation with China, to develop the corridor years ago.
Russia seeks to make it a corridor for the export of gas and oil produced from the fields of northern Siberia, while China plans to take advantage of climate shifts to make it a permanent commercial corridor throughout the year, to transport goods between East Asia and Europe.
The Russian state owned Rosneft company, has begun negotiating with shipping companies and foreign contractors to implement the “Vostok Oil” project to export Russian oil from the North Sea around next year 2024.
Rosneft estimates supplies from the North Sea fields at about 6.2 billion tons of crude.
The Russian government plans to open the corridor to commercial traffic in 2035, as it has provided it with investments worth $30 billion.
The journey through it between eastern China and western Europe takes about 23 days, 11 days less than the period it passed through the Suez Canal, which means reducing costs and time.
The Chinese government has directed shipping companies to use the “Northern Corridor” in convoys led by Russian nuclear icebreakers, since 2016, taking advantage of the widening of the corridor with the increase in global warming, which is melting ice in the Arctic, which contributes to reducing time and costs.
China’s share of containers and goods transported globally represents about 11% of the number of ships transiting the Suez Canal annually.
At the same time, China is digging a canal linking the Pacific and Atlantic stations through Nicaragua, competing with the Panama Canal, with an investment of $50 billion, as part of its quest to dominate the main trade routes around the world.
Russia is also planning a north-south corridor project, which connects the port of Bombay in India with the ports of the Persian Gulf, and by land to Iran, to head to the Caspian Sea by rail lines, and then continue by land to the port of St. Petersburg in the west of the country, and from there to western Europe and the Atlantic Ocean.
The corridor is estimated to be about 7,200 km long, and the Russian Ministry of Economy confirms that the volume of goods transported through it during the first quarter of this year 2023 amounted to 2.3 million tons, and is expected to increase to about 17 million tons by 2030, with the construction of a railway linking Moscow and Iran’s seaports.
The duration of the journey on the line ranges from 30 to 45 days, and it’s expected that it won’t exceed 10 days only when providing the necessary costs to complete the railway, so that the road becomes overland between the Persian Gulf and western Russia.
On May 17, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart, Ebrahim Raisi, signed an agreement to finance and build a $1.6 billion Iranian railway as part of the North-South International Transport Corridor project.
Moving forward with these projects comes as China launched the new overland Silk Road project, in 2014, to link eastern China and Central Asian countries, through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and Poland, to branch out to Berlin and then Italy in the south, and another to France to reach London.
Likewise, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu launched a project that would compete with the Suez Canal through a railway linking Tel Aviv with Jordan and extending to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, at a cost of $27 billion.
The Israeli efforts came after the normalization with the UAE, and during the stranding of a giant ship that disrupted navigation in the Suez Canal for a few days in 2022.
The Suez Canal represents the most important hard currency income, after the revenues of Egyptians abroad, amounting to about $9.4 billion in 2022, as about 72 ships pass through the canal daily.
The Suez Canal administration hopes to increase navigation traffic by 28%, with the completion of the canal navigational development project within 3 years.