Suez Canal Expansion Accelerated as April Traffic Breaks Historic Records

Tanker transit statistics via the Suez Canal broke historic records in April as Europe sought to import more crude oil and LNG from the Arab Gulf to replace traditional supplies from Russia.

Record traffic along the popular waterway will spur expansion project.
SOURCE: Suez Canal Authority

With the conflict in Ukraine driving tanker traffic via the Suez Canal to historic highs, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) is accelerating its expansion plan, targeting July 2023 as the date to complete its second channel extension while also enlarging the existing channel where the Ever Given container ship ran aground in 2021, blocking the canal for 6 days.

By extending the second lane (opened in 2015) by 10 km, another six ships can be added to convoys that are organized to pass through the canal in groups, SCA Chairman Osama Rabie told Reuters on the sidelines of an event in Dubai on 15 May. The second channel will reach 82 km once the extension is completed.

The SCA and its affiliated companies are also widening the southernmost 30 km of the canal by 40 m eastward and deepening it to 22 m (72 ft) from 20 m (66 ft), according to previously announced plans.

The enlargement “will improve ship navigation by 28%”, Reuters quoted Rabie as saying.

Oil, LNG Tanker Transit Shatters Historic Records
On 1 May, the SCA reported that April navigation statistics had broken historic records for both monthly revenue and monthly net tonnage; increases the authority attributed to a rise in Europe-and US-bound tanker traffic driven by the conflict in Ukraine, though revenues also got a boost from a hike in transit tariffs in February.

Monthly revenue hit $629 million, a 13.6% jump over April 2021 figures; monthly net tonnage rose 3.9% year on year to 114.5 million tons, while 115 more ships passed through the canal, a monthly increase of 6.3% over the year previous, the SCA reported.

Oil tanker traffic jumped the highest in April, up 25.8% from last April, with liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers showing a 12% increase; containers ship traffic increased by 9%; and the number of car carriers increased by 6.6%.

In an interview with independent Middle East news agency Al-Monitor, Rabie attributed the conflict in Ukraine for the spike in numbers of oil tankers transiting the canal. He said that northbound oil trade rose in April mainly because Europe and Canada were importing more crude from the Arab Gulf, while Russia was driving southbound oil traffic with exports to Asia.