Egypt’s Canal receipts fall by almost half after Red Sea attacks

Egypt’s Suez Canal revenue plunged by almost half in January, a top official said, after attacks by Yemeni militants on Red Sea vessels forced major shipping firms to avoid the waterway.

Income was about $428 million last month, compared with $804 million for the same period in 2023, Suez Canal Authority chief Osama Rabie told an Egyptian TV talk-show on Friday evening. The number of ships navigating the canal fell 36%, he said.

The drop is the latest headache for the North African nation that was already wrestling with its worst economic crisis in decades before the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October and threatened to disrupt trade and tourism.

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Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen, who began attacking merchant shipping in response to the conflict in Gaza, are showing no let-up even after the US and allies began air-strikes on January 12 to deter them.

The Suez Canal, the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe, is an important source of foreign currency for Egypt and netted some $10.25 billion in 2023. Before the violence that’s caused firms including A.P. Moller – Maersk A/S and Hapag-Lloyd AG to divert, the country had been working on expanding the waterway.

“This is the first time the Suez Canal is involved in a crisis like this,” Rabie said. “We used to find every month better than the previous and every year better than the ones before.”

Egypt is nearing a deal with the International Monetary Fund that may more than double its current $3 billion rescue package and bring in other partners.

© 2024 Bloomberg

Harry Byrne

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