Suez Canal Seen Kept Open by Army as Ship Agent Suspends ServiceMichelle Wiese Bockmann
Egypt’s army is maintaining shipping services through the Suez Canal, which handles about 8 percent of world trade, amid unrest that’s suspended some port services, Inchcape Shipping Services, a global maritime agent said.
“The canal is a controlled military zone, therefore there are no transit issues,” Sheila Armstrong, spokeswoman for the Chafford Hundred, England company, said in an e-mailed response to questions. The agency hasn’t been providing ship supplies or organising crew changes since Jan. 29 for vessels calling at Egypt because they can’t guarantee safety to ports, she said.
Egypt’s army is using cameras and helicopters to guard traffic through the 193 kilometer- (120 mile)-long canal that earned $5.13 billion in tolls in 2012, amid rioting. A week ago, demonstrations marking the second anniversary of the Jan. 25 uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak unleashed street battles that led to a state of emergency being declared and curfews in three provinces.
Cargo couldn’t be released at Port Said, at the mouth of the canal, as staff weren’t working, according to Inchcape. Operations at Sukhna Port stopped on Jan. 31 due to a strike by contractors, while bad weather also caused delays at other ports along the canal, according to Inchcape.
The changing of crew and the supply of ship provisions and vessel parts were still being provided by Gulf Agency Company (Egypt) Ltd., the port agent’s Cairo-based managing director Mohamed Badawi said by phone today.
In 2011 about 17,799 ships went through the canal, which connects the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea, carrying 691.8 million tons of cargo, equal to about 8 percent of world trade, figures from the Suez Canal Authority and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development show.