Yasser Zaghloul, Chief Executive of Abu Dhabi-based National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) has said that the dredging capacity of the NMDC has led to the completion of the new Suez Canal in record time.
"We had more than 70 percent of all dredging capacity in the world," said Mr. Zaghloul, adding "Without this, there would have been little chance of completing the project on time."
In an interview with The National newspaper he said, the company deployed 26 dredgers and 40 additional equipment, which was an unprecedented number to have been deployed in a single project.
The construction of the new stretch of waterway - which effectively doubles the canal's capacity, allowing for two-way traffic - initially had a three-year timeline. However, the consortium appointed to carry out the US$1.5 billion project, led by NMDC, completed it in nine-and-a-half months.
"We signed the contract on October 15th, 2014 and construction was completed by August 1st, 2015," Zaghloul told the newspaper.
"We are very proud, of course," he added.
The work involved the creation of a 35-kilometre-long parallel canal, which required the dredging of 200 million cubic metres of earth.
It achieved this by bringing together four of the world's largest dredging contractors - NMDC, Belgium's Jan De Nul and the Dutch companies Van Oord and Royal Boskalis Westminster.
The first dredgers began operations within two weeks of the contract being signed, and contractors also faced the major challenges of securing approval and clearances to use the machines and transporting them to Egypt from all over the world, he said.
"Mobilising all the dredgers and staff was a challenge, but we had a really strong logistics team to manage this," he explained.
"The difficult thing was to get all the necessary permits. But the [Suez Canal] authority was very proactive." At the project's peak, the consortium was dredging 1.5 million cubic metres of earth a month. In one month, it dredged a total of 40 million square metres of material, beating the previous record of 8 million square metres, Mr. Zaghloul told the paper.
The project involved 2,000 people from 45 countries working around the clock to ensure its timely completion.
The Suez Canal Authority expects to increase its annual revenue from US$3.5bn to $13.2bn by 2023 because of the new canal and a huge new economic zone created on its banks to drive investment.
William Jackson, an analyst with Capital Economics, told the newspaper that the new canal would help to "raise GDP growth, increase services exports and provide a much-needed increase in foreign currency revenues" as well as boosting government revenues.
"Of course, how immediate the benefits are depends on how quickly the extra capacity in the canal is used," he said.
Mr. Jackson told the paper that although he believes the government's forecast of doubling capacity by 2023 is optimistic, "plans to build logistics and manufacturing hubs on the canal's banks could, if successful, provide an important boost to productivity, employment and living standards.
"Egypt has many of the ingredients to be a successful manufacturing hub - it has a young and growing population, low labour costs, and a geographical position near wealthy European markets."