Egypt’s Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said the key waterway netted record revenues last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic and a six-day blockage by giant cargo ship the Ever Given.
Connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, the canal accounts for roughly 10 per cent of global maritime trade and is a source of much-needed foreign currency for Egypt.
In 2021, some 1.27 billion tonnes of cargo were shipped through the canal, earning $6.3 billion in transit fees, 13 per cent more than the previous year and the highest figures ever recorded, SCA chief Osama Rabie said.
The number of ships using the canal rose from 18,830 in 2020 to 20,694 in 2021, or more than 56 ships per day, the SCA said in a statement.
In March, the Ever Given super tanker – a behemoth with deadweight tonnage of 199,000 – got stuck diagonally across the canal during a sandstorm.
A round-the-clock salvage operation took six days to dislodge it, and one employee of the SCA died during the rescue operation. Egypt lost some $12 million to $15 million each day during the canal closure, according to the SCA.
After it was freed, Egypt seized the ship and demanded compensation from owners Shoei Kisen Kaisha for lost canal revenues, salvage costs and damage to the waterway.
The Taiwanese-operated vessel steamed out of the Suez in July after the Japanese owners reached a compensation deal with Egypt.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed publicly but Egypt had originally demanded more than $900 million in compensation, which it later reduced to $550 million.
The Ever Given safely returned back through the canal without a hitch in August.
In May, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a two-year project to widen and deepen the southern part of the waterway where the ship ran aground to avoid any repetition of the crisis.
In November, the SCA said it will hike transit tolls by six per cent starting in 2022, but tourist vessels and liquefied natural gas carriers are be exempted.