By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Vice Chairperson Cho Kyung-hee, Editor Linda Yun
Admiral Mohab Mohamed Hussien Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority and chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, said, “We have three shipyards in the Suez Canal Zone and these shipyards need to be upgraded. This is why we are here in Korea.”
Speaking with The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language media outlets since 34 years ago in 1985, at an exclusive interview with The Korea Post in Seoul on Feb. 25, 2019, Chairman Mameesh said, “Together with our counterparts in Korea, we are exploring all the potential opportunities to upgrade our three shipyards and, besides upgrading the shipyards, and we would also like to explore the opportunities for building our own vessels.”
Then he said, “We may start to build these vessels in Korea and once we develop our shipyards we can continue the building process of our own shipyards.”
According to the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt has five times the land size of South and North Korea put together and has a population hovering over 114 million, which is the largest among all the Middle East countries.
Egypt is also noted for the exceptional historical significance of civilization which dates back to 5,000 years before Christ. The Egyptian culture and civilization, the earliest among all denominations of mankind, forms the cross-roads of all cultures and peoples, including Greek, Roman and Islamic ages. Egypt also is the geopolitical center linking Asia, Europe and Africa.
Since its establishment as a Republic in 1952, Egypt has been performing the role of ‘Leader of the Arab World.’
Egypt has a long string of wonders, including the Pyramids, Sphinx, and various other objects of the brilliant Ancient culture.
On Nov. 22, 1943, the then President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of the Republic of China (now in exile on Taiwan) held a four-day conference in Cairo to outline the Allied position against Imperial Japan during World War II and the postwar order in Asia.
In the Cairo Declaration issued on Nov. 27, 1943, the Allied leaders agreed that “in due course, Korea shall become free and independent.”
This is when the Korean people (then in one piece before the division of the country in 1945) got the overwhelming news that they would again become one, independent nation after the end of World War II—with an end put to the 36 years of colonial rule by Japanese militarist government.
Egypt, according to MOFA of Korea, regards Korea as a model country in the world, who has achieved democratic development and economic growth in the shortest period of time in the world.
In particular, in March 2016, President El Sisi of Egypt visited Seoul and signed an agreement for increased cooperation with Korea as a ‘Comprehensive Partner Country’ of in various areas.
Excerpts from the interview with Chairman Mameesh follow:
Question: What is your main purpose of visit to Korea?
Answer: Actually, the main purpose of this visit to consolidate the bilateral relations between the Arab Republic of Egypt and Republic of Korea as well as consolidate brotherly relations between the two friend nations.
Q: Specifically in what area and areas?
A: We are here to consolidate the collaboration especially in the fields of ship-building and to benefit from Korean expertise.
Q: Great money maker! Do you have any specific plan to meet people in the field?
A: We came here, as I mentioned, with the main purpose to attract the Korean investments to the Suez Canal Economic Zone in addition to explore the potential to collaboration opportunities in the ship-building industry. We are looking forward to attract especially small and medium enterprises.
Q: Do you have a plan to meet any specific person or persons in Korea?
A: We have a plan to conduct several meetings with reputable Korean entities here in Korea as well as paying different visits to Korean shipyards.
Q: How about President Moon Jae-in?
A: We have a meeting with His Excellency Prime Minister of Korea, but we didn’t get the chance to meet His Excellency Mr. President.
Q: The prime minister personally is a good man. He visits the heads of governments all around the world on behalf of the President. He is in a good position to become the next president of Korea. So, you met the proper person. During this visit, do you have a plan to visit specific persons or company?
A: We have invited several companies to attend the Korea-Egypt Business Forum set to be held on 26th.Feb.2019. We will have a presentation to brief all the attendees of Suez Canal Economic Zone and competitive advantages of the zone as well as the potential investment opportunities available in the zone.
Q: What is your general view of the ship-building industry of Korea?
A: For talking about Korea in terms of ship-building, it is one of the top countries in the world for the ship-building industries. I am quite aware that Korea owns mega shipyards. They are completely advanced field of expertise.
Q: Do you have any specific Korean company to cooperate with in ship-building?
A: Daewoo is one of the companies that we are targeting the cooperation opportunities. We have a task force heading direct shipyard to explore all the potential opportunities for collaboration. They are on the way in the meantime.
Q: As far as I understand, this is the first major occasion to represent your country in the area of ship-building.
A: This is the first time as you mentioned to deal with the Republic of Korea in the ship-building industry. We are ready to have all expertise in Egypt related to ship-building industry.
We do have efficient work force and some extends of acceptable capabilities. As you might be aware the increasing population in Egypt which exceeded 100 million citizens few months ago and we need to transport all types of cargo like food, commodities and medicine.
That is why we are aiming to collaborate with Korea in the ship-building industry. We need to own our fleet, vessels. That is why we need to explore how we can collaborate on this.
Besides the collaboration on the ship-building industry, we are looking all suit attractive investments of Korea in the Canal Economic Zone. Such a unique geographical location of the Suez Canal Economic Zone would guarantee the Korean investors to distribute the products for all the regional and international markets, thanks to the unique geographical location of the Canal Zone, especially to the Southeast Asia, Africa or the other countries. Full access to regional and international markets from this zone.
I would like to add more about the Suez Canal Economic Zone. I would like to brief you quickly about the geographic location of the Suez Canal Economic Zone which connects Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
It splits two continents, Asia and Africa. In the Suez Canal itself, we accommodate more than 18.000 vessels per year. As I mentioned, we have booming national market due to the population with increasing needs.
The Suez Canal Economic Zone and all the investments inside it, are not aiming just the national booming market but also we are targeting the Arab market, the African, Asian, European, up to the eastern costs of the US. One of the competitive advantages of the Suez Canal Economic Zone is that we have six ports in the zone of the Suez Canal. Three ports are overlooking to the Mediterranean and other three to Red Sea, in addition to the existence of Suez Canal as a maritime road at the heart of the Suez Canal Economic Zone.
As you can see, this unique geographical location is at the heart of the world. Of course this unique geographical location is completely important distribution and redistribution of goods and services. Last year we have accommodated more than one billion tons of cargo through the Suez Canal.
That is why I would like to go back to attract the Korean investments to the Suez Canal Economic Zone. I believe this is strategic, unique chance for all the Korean investors to benefit from this type of raw materials and cargo that transfer the canal on annual basis.
The Korean investments could extend in this zone in a great way and they could use this unique geographical location to access several markets that the Korean investments could reach.
One more important point I would like to highlight that we are not targeting only to attract the ship-building investment opportunities but we are also extending an open invitation for all the Korean investors to see the zone and explore all the potential investments in different fields.
Actually, I came here upon clear directives from the political leadership in Egypt. Actually, he guided me that we need to have talks and negotiations with our Korean counterparts to explore together how we can consolidate the bilateral relations in the form of investments and to increase the trade relations. It is a win-win situation. We are here for the benefit of all nations, especially of Koreans and Egyptian.
Q: You came here in a right time. President Moon Jae-in has changed his mind. He was interested only in regional development with North Korea. Now he changed his attention back to the outside world.
A: I would like to add something important. The world is in a bad need for the Korean expertise. This is what I believe and we are all in a bad need for the Korean expertise. We need to benefit from such magnificent mentality and capabilities. We desperately need expertise in different fields and that is why we are here today, exactly to know how we can benefit from what you have here.
Q: You came in a right time.
A: I would like also to add that all the Korean vessels transit the Suez Canal every year. We are completely happy with all the Korean shipping lines that use the Suez Canal and transit the canal on annual basis.
Q: Has Suez Canal undergone any new development?
A: This is an important question. Recently, we have accomplished a great expansion project of adding a new Suez Canal to the regional Suez Canal. It is a parallel canal to the original one. Thanks to the engineering advancement of Egypt, we have constructed a parallel canal which can accommodate even the next generation vessels not only the current ones.
Q: Why don’t you invite Korean companies?
A: Definitely, yes! Thanks to the new Suez Canal, parallel canal to the regional one, we reduced the transit time in general from 22 hours to only 11 hours. So it takes only 11 hours nowadays for a vessel from Mediterranean to Red Sea. New Suez Canal Project is not just a maritime project, it has a humanitarian side. The reduction of transit time, we are producing more services. We are delivering different types of cargo in a shorter way like medicine, food commodities. We can deliver them to every spot in the globe in a shorter way.
One more advantage of this expansion of the New Suez Canal is increasing the maritime safety in the canal. Imagine that the original situation in the past, it looks like a single road with a single lane. If any vessel stopped in the middle of the waterway, it could completely block the waterway.
Now we are having a parallel canal, we can easily shift the traffic to the additional canal in case of any emergency or problem. So today thanks to the new Suez Canal, navigation in the channel could not be interrupted anymore.
Q: How do you compare this with the Panama Canal?
A: Actually, there's a great difference. The Panama Canal Authority is completely reputable entity. We have great relations with them but there is great difference in the capabilities of both canals. After the Expansion Project we have completed like a year ago all their capabilities to accommodate vessels up to 13,500 to use only. In the Suez Canal we can accommodate vessels up to 200,000 to use. So you can see the difference. I would like to mention that the navigation mechanism in the Panama Canal depends mainly on the locks system. There's a difference in the sea levels with the Panama Canal, we don't have this in the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal is at the same sea level between the Mediterranean and Red Sea so we don't apply a lock system mechanism in the Suez Canal. This is one major difference between Panama Canal and the Suez Canal.
Q: The Suez Canal has a long history and it was a conflict between many countries. In 1970s, you owned this canal. Is there any conflict with Israel or other countries?
A: Actually it was nationalized in 1956. Due to this nationalization process, Egypt witnessed many political conflict and of course we have witnessed a war.
Despite the political challenges Egypt kept its rights to own the canal as an Egyptian canal. We are serving the entire world this is not dedicated to Egypt only but we are serving the entire world through the Suez Canal. I would like to add to you that in the Suez Canal we have nothing to do with politics at all.
We treat all the countries that use the Suez Canal on relations based on justice and equality, we not discriminate between the countries whatsoever.
Moreover we cannot prevent any vessel from transferring to Suez Canal except in three cases only. The first one of this vessel has some sort of narcotics or drugs on board, and if the vessel is found involved in human trafficking this is the second case. Or if this vessel is for a country that has a declared state of war with Egypt this of the third case. Drugs and narcotics, human trafficking, and declared state of war with Egypt.
Otherwise the free navigation is employed in every country in the world. Any country is more than welcome to use the Suez Canal except in these three cases. As we've been talking about the Suez Canal Economic zone, it's completely interconnected with the new Expansion Project of the new Suez Canal. We are initiating a mega development process in the zone the new Suez Canal and the Suez Canal Economic Zone project.
I would like to assure you that the Suez Canal Zone will be the game-changer not only in the region but globally. We believe that through the unique geographical location of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, it has a promising potential to be a development beacon in the Middle East and especially in Africa. So we have increased the connectivity between the two bands of the canal which means we have increased the connectivity to the Suez Canal Economic Zone which is located on the eastern and western sides. We connected both bands through four mega tunnels crossing underneath of the canal. Also we build five floating bridges that could transport people between the two bands of the canal. So we have a total connection points between the two bands of the canal.
Also in order to develop this zone, we have been working on different fronts. One of them is the developing of the infrastructure there. We have developed a water desalination plant as well as a major power station.
So let me assure you that the infrastructure in this zone is completely ready to receive investments. Two days ago we were in Russia because Russia is set to build the industrial zone in Port Said, one of the spots of the Suez Canal. Russia will have its own industrial area there.
We have a diversification of investors in the Suez Canal from different countries in the world. As I mentioned we're looking to diversify the types as well as attracting different destinations of investments from every spot in the globe. We are quite sure that these investments and industries could be promoted easily in the region.
That's why we are here today to invite all the Korean reputable entities and only interested Korean investors who are the potential in the opportunities available in this Canal Zone. I am quite sure that together with our Korean counterparts we could develop and can take it further to the next level.
Another competitive advantage in the Suez Canal Zone is the tax incentives that we could grant to the investors in addition to non-tax incentives. I'm quite sure that these incentives could easily make sure all the investors that their investments in the Suez Canal will be for sure a booming.
I would like to address to Mr. Ambassador that your industrial investments in this zone could easily be promoted in different markets that you couldn't reach in the past as I mentioned. Thanks to the infrastructure and all the competitive advantages.
Q: All Korean people welcome you and the Suez Canal. I hope the Korean economy will be booming through this canal.
A: I would like to express my sense of this unique opportunity of this unique meeting to extend my sincere thanks and recognition and appreciation for the political leadership in Korea and Korean president. I would like to deliver the greetings and appreciation of his Excellency the Egyptian president to his Korean counterpart. To mention that in Egypt quite aware of the heroic history of the Republic of Korea, we appreciate how this nation struggled and how this nation came into big success in the front history. I would like to mention that the Egyptian nation and the Korean Nation we consider them as a one nation one single unified nation. Friendly, brotherly relations are to be also boosted through the pivotal role played his Excellency the Egyptian Ambassador here in the Republic of Korea as well as the military attache here.
Q: Please introduce yourself in detail for our readers.
A: My name is Admiral Mohab Mamish, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority and chairman of the Suez Canal aquatic Zone as well.
We are here to consolidate collaboration especially in the field of shipbuilding and to benefit from the green expertise in that contains Pacifica plan to meet the people in Korea.
We came here with a dimension if you wanted to go with the main purpose to attract the Korean collaboration opportunities in the shipbuilding industries and we are also seeking to attract investments in the economic zones. We are looking forward to attracting especially small and medium enterprises.