The Suez Canal recorded the highest daily transit rate in its history on Wednesday, with 87 ships traversing in both directions.
Admiral Osama Rabie, the Suez Canal Authority’s chairman, said it showed that the waterway was ready to absorb higher capacity amid an ambitious expansion project.
This expansion was accelerated after the Ever Given container ship ran aground in March, stopping traffic for six days and disrupting global trade. The $10-billion project is expected to triple annual revenue and double the number of vessels passing through the vital waterway by 2023.
Nearly 19,000 ships traversed the waterway last year, an average of 51.5 ships a day, according to the canal authority.
On Wednesday, the 87 vessels had a total cargo-carrying capacity of 4.8 million tonnes. Thirty-eight traversed the canal from the north and 49 from the south.
Northbound traffic was led by the giant container ship MSC Istanbul with a net tonnage of 182,000, which was on its journey from Morocco to Singapore.
The Liberian-flagged container ship MSC Anna, travelling from Saudi Arabia to Egypt with a net tonnage of 203,000, led the southbound convoy.
The traffic included 18 container ships, 18 large oil tankers and 10 liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas tankers.
Millions in lost revenue
Admiral Rabie said widening and deepening the canal would be the priority in the first phase of the new project.
Dredging work to turn 10 kilometres of a 40-km, single-lane stretch of the canal into a double lane area began in May.
Currently, two bypasses exist along the canal that allow ships to move in both directions simultaneously, one of which was completed in 2015.
The authority has also purchased its own high-tech rescue equipment in recent months, including two powerful dredgers, to avoid a repeat of the Ever Given incident that cost the canal millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Earlier this month, the Coral Crystal bulk carrier briefly ran aground in the canal, but the authority said it was refloated within an hour.