Egypt rakes in around US$5 billion a year from shipping passing through the Suez Canal. That is a great incentive for keeping the vital Asia-Europe waterway open, but it may be a big ask for a military already stretched in imposing a state of emergency.
For most of its 193 kilometres, ships sail in single file up and down the canal that is just 202 metres wide. For a ship to be sunk at almost any point along the canal would block the route and create massive disruption to the world’s busiest sea trade.
Security in the Gulf or Aden and the Red Sea has been a priority for shipping since pirates began harassing cargo ships in the last decade, but the Suez was relatively peaceful until the weekend. Panamanian-registered container ship Cosco Asia came under fire in a northern section of the canal on Saturday, with the Suez Canal Authority saying a rocket propelled grenade had been used in the attack along with assault rifles.