Egyptian authorities are discussing plans to expand the country’s merchant navy to support the country’s supply chain operations. Egypt joins other developing countries that have been hit hard over the past two years by global supply chain disruptions that are now looking to develop domestic shipping operations.
Transport Minister Kamel al-Wazir told reporters at a May 11 briefing that Egypt would seek to more than triple the number of nationally flagged cargo ships in its transport operations. The country’s merchant fleet currently has only 118 ships, including 35 large cargo ships. The Ministry of Transport displays figures on its website indicating that in 2021, the country’s merchant fleet handled a total of 163 million tonnes of cargo, including 7.3 million TEUs. Egypt Today media reports that the minister said during his briefing that there are currently only five shipping companies working in Egypt, only two of which are Arab Egyptians.
The plan calls for increasing the cargo fleet to 150 ships. One of the areas they also discussed is the creation of a fleet of Egyptian-flagged bulk carriers. al-Wazir said the ministry would undertake a feasibility study while seeking to attract more investors to the maritime sector. It is also looking to build closer working relationships with the Suez Canal Authority. Their efforts are in response to directives from Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who ordered them to create an Egyptian fleet to transport imports and exports.
The Minister recently met with the Chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, Oussama Rabie, and visited the facilities of the Suez Shipbuilding Company. They highlighted the opportunity to expand the operations of the shipyard which currently maintains vessels for the Canal Authority as well as commercial work for small and medium sized vessels. They pointed out that the shipyard has one of the largest floating dry docks in the Middle East. It is 990 feet long and has a lifting capacity of 55,000 tons. The yard’s second drydock is 460 feet long and has a lifting capacity of 8,000 tons. The Canal Authority, through partnerships with international companies, seeks to develop its business in the construction and repair of commercial vessels, which could be used to support the Egyptian merchant navy.
Other developing countries have discussed similar plans to expand or modernize their inland navigation operations. Vietnam recently published a study calling for investments of more than 1.5 billion dollars to develop a modern fleet of container ships with a total of 25 vessels over the next five years each with a capacity of between 1,800 and 5,500 TEUs. The fleet would be used to construct intra-Asian sea routes later expanded to include the Middle East. In the second phase, they are asking for larger ships to provide global services, including to North America and Europe.
The Thai government also said in September 2021 that it was moving forward restore its national maritime industry. Their plan was to work with a private limited company to charter ships and begin service in June 2022 on domestic routes. The first service would be on the Gulf of Thailand carrying goods between Bangkok and industrial centers on the east coast and southeast. In the longer term, they too were exploring the development of international routes.