Egypt resumes trade at Sinai port as Islamic State threat regresses

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IslamNews – Egypt has recently reopened the Al-Arish port in North Sinai as part of efforts to revive the economy in the area that has struggled under years of Islamist insurgency.

For the first time in several years, a commercial ship docked Jan. 4 at al-Arish port in North Sinai, where all activities had been suspended due to military operations against IS militants. 

The reopening is part of the Egyptian government’s efforts to link this strategic port to the Suez Canal, seeking to boost development in Sinai.

The New Moon cargo ship is transporting 3,000 tons of cement from the military-owned al-Arish cement factory to Libya for reconstruction projects, according to the port’s director Maj. Gen. Mohamed Sharif. In a Jan. 4 statement, Sharif said thaTfive more vessels will dock at the port soon. He said that reopening the port to export traffic will offer a lifeline for the people of North Sinai.

Sharif added that the Suez Canal Economic Zone  (SCZone) Authority made great efforts during the downtime to develop and modernize al-Arish port and turn it an international harbor on the Mediterranean coast.

On July 15, 2019, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered that the port be affiliated with the Egyptian Armed Forces, with the SCZone Authority financing, developing, operating and managing it while the army provided security.

Yaman al-Hamaki, an economics professor at Ain Shams University, told Al-Monitor, “The opening of al-Arish seaport is part of a government plan develop it and link it to the SCZone, which Sisi inaugurated back in August 2015, as well as the Golden Triangle in the Red Sea, to the coasts of Europe. The port will make it easier for the factories in Sinai to export their products and become more competitive. Sinai is teeming with raw material.”

The governor of North Sinai, Maj. Gen. Mohamed Abdel-Fadil Shousha, said in his speech at the reception ceremony Jan. 4, “Several of the area’s riches and resources, including glass sand and salt, which will be exported in the future.”

Shousha added that al-Arish port “is now eligible for exports to various countries in the world, notably Europe, thanks to the directives of President Sisi, who agreed to speed up the development projects at the port and put it on par with other seaports on the Mediterranean coast.”

He pointed out that the port will open new horizons for development in North Sinai, providing direct and indirect job opportunities.

“2021 will be a good year for Egypt and North Sinai,” Shousha said.

A source close to security and government officials in Sinai who asked not to be named told Al-Monitor that the army had set up several checkpoints on the roads between factories and the port to reduce risks and threats posed to trucks, which had been the targets of attacks.

On Nov. 10, 2017, the Islamic State attacked seven trucks belonging to a cement factory in central Sinai, killing the drivers and an army officer.

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