Egypt has started dredging works to expand the Suez Canal's southern section aimed at allowing two-way traffic in the vital waterway, authorities said.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) announced Saturday that the dredging is part of a project to develop the southern entrance of the Suez Canal, Xinhua news agency.
SCA Chairman Osama Rabie said in the statement that the project is a continuation of developing the waterway that began with the opening of the new Suez Canal in 2015, adding that dredging works will take place in several stages.
The project, Rabie said, is expected to raise the efficiency of the canal and reduce the transit time for ships, in addition to increasing the safety of navigation in the southern section.
Last week, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi approved the SCA's plan to expand and deepen the southern stretch of the Suez Canal.
The project, to be completed in two years, will widen and deepen 40 km of the waterway, including the part where a container ship Ever Given became jammed and blocked traffic for six days in March.
The SCA will also widen the 30 km southern stretch of the waterway between the city of Suez and the Bitter Lakes area by 40 metres, and deepen that section from 20 to 21 metres.
Linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, the Suez Canal is a major lifeline for global seaborne trade since it allows ships to travel between Europe and South Asia without navigating around Africa, thereby reducing the sea voyage distance between Europe and India by about 7,000 km.
Some 12 per cent of the world trade volume passes through the Suez Canal.
At least 18,840 ships passed through the canal last year.
The Suez Canal provides one of Egypt's main sources of income, alongside tourism and remittances from expatriates.
Revenue from the waterway reached $5.6 billion last year.