By Muhammad Al-Atrush and Rihab Saber
The Arab Academy for Science, Technology, and Maritime Transport (AASTMT) will soon lay out a plan for Suez Canal Development and prepare studies for transport and logistics projects in Egypt, said Major General Ismail Abdul Ghaffar, the academy’s chairman.
In an interview with “Logistics”, Abdul Ghaffar said that he expects to hold a meeting with Admiral Mohab Mamish, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, to agree on the new features of the project in preparation for developing a general plan and implementation mechanisms during the next phase. He declined to disclose any proposed studies for the project.
Abdul Ghaffar said AASTMT had presented a master plan to develop Egypt’s ports to the Minister of Transportation. This will be among the Ministry’s priorities in the next phase, indicating AASTMT’S desire to become an expert in the transport sector by preparing the studies required to develop the maritime transport system, of which seaports are an important part.
He went on to say that AASTMT is currently working in collaboration with the Governor of Alexandria, General Tareq Al-Mahdi, to develop a general plan for the governorate’s development that will be announced in the coming period.
Abdul Ghaffar believes that the Academy will make significant contributions to the development of Alexandria governorate. They presented a plan to the Governor of Alexandria for converting Abu Qir, which contains ancient ruins and an excellent location, into a tourist destination. They will also contribute to other tourism and infrastructure projects in the region.
Development of the Mandara Tunnel has begun with AASTMT consulting on the project, as well as on a new road east of the railway and on connecting the International Coastal Road to Port Said.
Abdul Ghaffar noted that AASTMT has completed several studies on the development of the port in East Port Said. There is a plan to construct a new pier for containers with more than $700m in investments. The pier will handle 5.1 million containers annually, and was expected to reach 11 million containers by 2015. Only 10% of the plan has been implemented so far, with the remainder targeted for completion by 2015.
Additionally, AASTMT has provided studies on creating a side canal for maritime transport at the port of East Port Said. The new canal would be 9 kilometres long, 250 metres wide, and 50 metres deep. The waterway would be 18.5 metres to allow large ships longer than 400 metres to enter. Estimates of the initial cost for the new branch to East Port Said are EGP 400m.
Abdul Ghaffar suggested that the new channel will solve the problem of container ships waiting to enter the port, thereby increasing the planned port’s volume of trade. The new port will consist of at least three new container terminals and stations for pouring liquids and dry materials, among other projects.
In the interview, Abdul Ghaffar added that AASTMT is not involved in implementing any of the plans, but rather is only assuming an advisory role including human resources support and research. He also explained that AASTMT owns a company that converts manual systems to mechanised systems at ports.
AASTMT has contributed its research and efforts to modernising the Wardan Institute, part of the railway agency, to ensure the development of the rail transport system. Abdul Ghaffar pointed out that AASTMT relies on self-financing and does not receive support from any countries or outside entities. According to Abdul Ghaffar, this means their decisions are only based on the good of AASTMT and the common good, with no personal considerations.
He explained that AASTMT is cooperating with the European Union (EU) through education grants, building laboratories, and improving students’ scientific abilities. There is also an EU initiative to provide technical assistance to create job opportunities and training for distinguished graduates of AASTMT by working in European fleets.
AASTMT also provides training programmes for workers at Arab ports on the latest in the management and operation of sea ports. Likewise, it provides technical assistance and economic and feasibility studies to help Arab ports develop.
On the AASTMT’s international contributions, Abdul Ghaffar mentioned that they recently signed a cooperation agreement with the Integrated Solutions for Ports company and the Tripoli Port Investment Authority for the supply and implementation of electronic management applications for the Port of Tripoli. The agreement’s signing was attended by Ambassador Mohamed Rabie, the chairman of the Council of Arab Economic Unity; Osama Khushab, Lebanon’s Consul General in Alexandria; Major General Essam Badawi, Secretary General of the Arab Sea Ports Federation; and Mahmoud Sahlab, Chairman of the Board for the Port of Tripoli.
According to the contract, the Arab Academy for Science and Technology and Maritime Transport agrees with the Board of Directors of the Port of Tripoli to provide an electronic management system to the port. The agreement comes within a framework of cooperation with the Lebanese Ministry of Transportation in anticipation of spreading the system to the rest of Lebanon’s ports.
Abdul Ghaffar said that the system will provide officials with the means, data, and statistics necessary to help strategic planning for the port. It will facilitate and streamline the implementation of procedures for ships and goods. Finally, it will improve the services provided to customers and traders at the port and generally improve the port’s competitiveness.