Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has ordered the creation of a special economic zone surrounding the Suez Canal, part of a long planned ambitious project to develop the area adjacent to the strategic waterway into an industrial hub.
The decision was issued on Tuesday in the country's official gazette.
The project, which will span over 460km and involve six ports, will include 1000 factories and will offer investors 18 projects worth nearly $40 billion, officials said earlier. It is the second leg of a program to develop the canal after Egypt opened last week a new expansion to the vital shipping lane.
Officials say the aim of the new industrial and logistical zone is to boost the role of the waterway in international trade and raise revenues to stimulate the country's battered economy.
The development project will be carried out in three to five years. It had been promoted for years under former president Hosni Mubarak but never crystallized.
The estimated-$8.2 billion newly-opened extension included the construction of an additional 35-km channel running parallel to part of the existing 145-year old canal, the shortest sea route between Asia and Europe.
It also included the deepening and widening of 37 kilometres of the existing waterway.
Officials hope the project will cut waiting period for vessels by seven hours, and more than double annual revenues from $5.3 billion in 2014 to $13.23 billion in 2023.