A supersized container ship owned by French shipping giant CMA CGM Group made its first passage through the Suez Canal on May 2, marking a success story in the effort by ports and canals worldwide to expand their facilities to accommodate ever-larger vessels.
Egyptian officials launched a project in 2014 to expand the Suez Canal, a crucial shipping link allowing vessels to cut between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea instead of sailing thousands of extra miles south to circle the southern tip of Africa. Over the next four years, workers will dredge, deepen and enlarge 22 miles of the existing waterway and double its 345-meter width for 21 miles. The changes should allow larger vessels to enter the canal, and whisk them through its 120-mile length more quickly.
The CMA CGM Kerguelen tested these improvements when the vessel with a capacity of 17,722 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) passed through the canal en route from its delivery in South Korea to a christening ceremony in Le Havre, France. Plans call for the vessel to cross the canal again on the return route of its 77-day rotation.
While the passage is impressive, CMA CGM will see its greatest improvements when the increased efficiency is spread across its entire fleet. In 2014 alone, the company's vessels sailed 637 times through the Canal.
Egypt also benefits from the increase in maritime trade, earning about US$5 billion in annual revenue in fees for ships passing through the 145-year-old waterway.