Egypt awards Suez hub project to consortium of army, Gulf engineering firm

CAIRO Tue Aug 19, 2014 8:37am EDT

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CAIRO Aug 19 (Reuters) - Egypt announced on Tuesday it had chosen a consortium that includes the Egyptian army and Bahrain-registered engineering firm Dar al-Handasah Shair and Partners to develop an industrial and logistics hub in the Suez Canal area.

The Suez Canal is the fastest shipping route between Europe and Asia and brings in around $5 billion in revenues per year, a vital source of hard currency for Egypt which has struggled since a 2011 uprising deterred tourists and foreign investors.

In January, Egypt invited 14 consortia to bid for the development of 76,000 square kilometres (29,000 square miles) around the canal, a project that was first floated several years ago but never taken further.

The head of the Suez Canal Authority, Mohab Memish, made the announcement at a news conference in Ismailia, a city on the banks of the canal in north west Egypt. The event was attended by Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.

"The winning consortium to create the master plan for the Suez Canal area development project is the consortium of Dar Al Handasah Shair and Partners, which is registered in Bahrain, in alliance with Dar al-Handasah Egypt," Memish said.

The Egyptian army is a local partner in Dar al-Handasah Egypt through the Armed Forces Engineering Authority, a government source told Reuters previously.

Egyptian President and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said he would not hesitate to award major projects that would help revive Egypt's economy to the army.

The Sinai peninsula, which lies on one side of the canal, has seen a rise in violence from Islamist militants in the past three years, prompting the government to launch an ongoing military campaign in which hundreds have died on both sides.

Egypt's Gulf Arab allies have close links to the Egyptian military and have given billions of dollars in aid to the country since the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last year.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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