Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi recently announced plans to build three marinas from the Suez Canal revenue to support the national economy.
According to the Suez Canal Authority (SCA), the strategic waterway posted its highest monthly revenue in its history in August, at a staggering $745 million. Annual sales for the 2021/2022 fiscal year were $7 billion.
Sisi’s announcement came during the opening of the SCA Olympic Village in Ismailia on September 8 and the inauguration of new SCA maritime units.
The President said at the time that the three marinas along the canal would be funded entirely from SCA revenue, with no impact on state budget allocations. He argued that the project was not a luxury but a necessity given year-round yacht traffic crossing the canal.
Sisi further noted that the ports are part of the state’s overall development plan, both in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which would create jobs and attract more tourists for a new type of tourism.
The head of the SCA, Osama Rabie, confirmed in a previous meeting with Sisi on September 4 that the SCA is working on logistics and services to turn Egypt into a receiving corridor for yacht crossings. These services, he added, include fueling, electricity, water, quick maintenance, yacht reception centers and warehousing services.
At the end of July, the Egyptian cabinet passed a draft law on regulating foreign yacht tourism in Egyptian marinas and seaports and creating an online platform “Single-Window for Yacht Tourism”, which will oversee the implementation and improvement of the yacht tourism strategy and ensure its sustainability to the Ministry of Transport .
Adel Amer, an economist and head of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, told Al-Monitor that the three planned ports are a step to boost the canal’s revenues.
“Investing the high revenues of the Suez Canal in projects that serve the state and attract and encourage foreign investment is extremely positive,” said Amer Shipbuilding and Maintenance, Financing Offers and Yacht Tourism.
Wael Kaddour, a former board member of the SCA, argued that Egypt has long neglected yacht tourism. “These ports will attract tourists from Europe, especially in the coming winter, by taking advantage of the canal’s excellent location, especially given the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. Europe is experiencing an energy crisis due to its dependence on Russian gas, so we have high expectations of huge European tourists this season,” he told Al-Monitor.
Kaddour added that Egypt will carry out major expansion and development projects in Port Said, Ismailia and Port Tawfiq ports to accommodate the largest number of yachts along the canal line and to provide facilities and incentives for long anchoring of yachts.
He also urged the state to move forward with other key Suez Canal projects. “Industrial zones must be set up. This will increase job opportunities, curb unemployment and attract foreign investment, thereby reducing Egypt’s debt and helping solve the country’s economic crisis,” he said.
Ahmed el-Shamy, maritime advisor to the Ministry of Transport, told Al-Monitor: “This move will put Egypt on the right track to compete with Turkey, Greece and Israel, who are ahead of us in this area despite our excellent location.”
Shamy believes that the ports of El-Arish and El-Tur Harbour, which are attached to the Suez Canal Economic Zone, should also be developed to give Egypt a competitive advantage. He said Egypt has created an appropriate legal environment for yacht tourism along with the political will to develop this industry.
Investing in the canal, he said, will also boost Egypt’s efforts to develop the blue economy, or the sustainable use of marine resources for economic growth, “which implies good investment in water resources, particularly marine tourism.”
Also, he said, Egypt’s green economy continues to grow ahead of the COP27 global climate summit it will host in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.