Egypt has been implementing a comprehensive plan to upgrade its ports at the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea with the goal of becoming a logistic center in the Middle East and Africa and promoting its presence on the international trade map, Egyptian experts said.
“The plan aims to boost the competitiveness of Egypt’s ports, create added value, lure investments, and activate the flow of importation and exportation,” said Mona Sobhy, professor of economic geography and transportation with the Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Egypt has many important ports at the Mediterranean Sea, including Alexandria, Daqahilia, Damietta, Arish, Said, and East Port Said. The port of Jarjoub is also scheduled to open soon, she said.
The new plan, expected to be completed in 2024, covers 58 projects for upgrading the Egyptian ports with costs estimated at 63 billion Egyptian pounds (about 4 billion U.S. dollars).
The development work includes building berths, trading yards, new wharves, commercial and logistical areas, dredging shipping lanes and port docks, and linking them to the railways and electric train network, as well as providing all ship services.
“Egypt also owns important ports on the Red Sea, such as the ports of Ain al-Sokhna, Suez, Safaga, and Nuweiba, in addition to the specialized tourist and petroleum ports,” Sobhy said.
Egypt has started to develop Ain al-Sokhna, one of the targeted ports at the Red Sea, with an investment of 1.27 billion U.S. dollars, to shift it into a central port at the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
The country has re-operated lately two ports of al-Arish and al-Tour after years of halt. Meanwhile, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has instructed to prepare a study for building the al-Max port at the Mediterranean Sea.
“Egypt is working on digital transformation of the operation of ports, linking seaports, dry and internal ports, consumption centers and manufacturing areas through road and rail networks, which would facilitate the movement of transport and distribution of exports and imports,” Sobhy said.
Egypt plans to link the ports and industrial areas in the Sinai Peninsula with the northwestern Gulf of Suez, and provide logistic services for ships inside the ports such as Ain al-Sokhna and East Port Said, with an aim to create added value, she said.
Sobhy said that the development of those ports would attract more investments to Egypt and transform the country into a logistical and commercial center in the Middle East and Africa.
Waleed Gaballah, professor of financial and economic jurisdictions at the Cairo University, believed that the plan for upgrading Egyptian ports, which has been delayed for a long time, is inevitable now.
Gaballah, also a member of the Egyptian Association for Political Economy, said that the development plan will turn Egypt into an important part of the global supply chain system.
“The development process isn’t only a matter of improving infrastructure, docks, and logistical areas in those ports. It is more related to amending the customs law,” he said.
Egypt’s new ports strategy also includes improving the efficiency of the docks, modernizing the technological and administrative infrastructure, and the presence of logistic areas attached to the ports, Gaballah said.
Egypt has established multi-purpose stations in some ports and linked them together, such as linking the port of Ain al-Sokhna with the port of El Alamein by an electric railway, he said.
Wael Kaddour, a maritime transport expert and former member of the Suez Canal Board of Directors, believes that the plan of upgrading the ports needs a dynamic process that goes along with the global trade movement.
He pointed out that all Egyptian ports are equipped with the 3rd-generation technology, while many other countries are starting to employ the 5th-generation technology.
Calling for improving the operation of the sea ports and navigation channels such as the Suez Canal with smart technology, Kaddour said “the ports are no longer a point of contact between the sea and the land, they have become logistic centers.”