Egypt has signed two contracts with a consortium of six international firms for the dredging work of the New Suez Canal alongside the original one, head of the Suez Canal Authority Mohab Memish said on Saturday.
Memish announced the signing at a press conference attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab, saying that they refer to the consortium as "the Challenge Coalition" due to the challenging dredging work they have to accomplish under a tight deadline.
"It is a very challenging project if you look at the timeline. We are looking at moving about 180 million cubic meters of soil in a time span of less than nine month operational time and we have one month to bring the equipment here to do that job," Bas van Bemmelen, area director of Dutch Boskalis dredging company, one of the six partners, told Xinhua Saturday.
The project was designed to be finished within three years, but Egyptian newly-elected President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi ordered the New Suez Canal be done in one year sharp and be open for ship navigation in early August 2015.
"It is the hugest dredging work in the world and the new canal will be inaugurated on August 5, 2015," Memish said.
The new 72-km waterway project includes 35 km of dry digging and 37 km of expansion and deepening of the current canal, with a total cost of more than eight billion dollars. The national project also includes the digging of six new tunnels underneath the New Suez Canal that will be constructed simultaneously.
"We have finished 68 million cubic meters of dry digging so far and we will keep our promise to complete such a historical project on time," Memish added, noting that his authority will be in charge of dredging one of the six zones using six dredgers, while the international firms will do the other five using 30 dredgers. "The first batch of dredgers will arrive next week," he said.
Earlier in August, Sisi gave the go-ahead signal for digging the new 72-km canal. The new waterway is expected to help revive Egypt's ailing economy by increasing ship traffic revenues, luring huge foreign investments and creating thousands of job opportunities.