Yacht marinas, tourism facilities and cruise ship berths are included as possible features of the new 60km Salwa Canal along the Saudi Arabian and Qatar border, the plans for which were announced last week. If the project goes ahead, which appears very likely, then Qatar would effectively become an island.
The plans suggest that the new canal will be 200m (656ft) and have a depth of 15m-20m (50ft-66ft). With no bridges proposed across the canal, it would allow the world’s largest superyachts to transit as well as cruise ships up to 295m (968ft). The outlined cost of the canal is set at around Saudi Riyals 2.8bn (S750m).
It is reported that engineers that worked on the extension of the Suez Canal are lined up to build the canal and that the construction time would be around a year.
There are mixed reasons thought to be behind the plans for the canal. The most obvious one is that Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt, has boycotted Qatar over the past 10 months or more because it is alleged to be supporting the financing of terrorism.
As an alternative, Saudi Arabia is in the early stages of a massive strategic plan to diversify its economy away from oil and the canal is just one of a number of projects that are part of this.
Another massive project which also shares yacht marinas and cruise ship activities is the $500bn NEOM mega city project, which is planned to be developed in northern Saudi Arabia but will also include Jordan and Egypt. NEOM would be located on the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, with the King Salman bridge across the Gulf of Aqaba connecting Egypt and Saudi.
As part of NEOM, which is proposed to be completed by 2030, a $10bn Egyptian-Saudi Fund was established last week.
Also, negotiations between Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Jordan have just been held. Within Jordan a number of resort projects are envisaged as part of NEOM, which could have access to three marinas that already exist along the short Jordanian coast.