The Suez Canal is at the centre of Egyptian plans to boost the region's economy and create jobs, with a huge development project, initially estimated at US$20bn, expected to start in 2015.
Both banks of the Suez Canal are set to be transformed into a centre for commerce and industry, according to Egyptian officials, with the ultimate aim being to turn Egypt into an international transportation hub.
Fourteen consulting consortia have won the right to purchase the terms and conditions booklet for the Suez Canal Corridor Development Project so they can draw up a master plan, Al-Shorfa reported.
Mohab Mamish, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, said that local and Arab investment was being sought as Egypt looks to take advantage of its enviable geogprahical location.
The Suez Canal already stands as one of the world's most important waterways for international trade, linking the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and serving as the principal conduit between Europe, Asia and Africa.
"The development of the Suez Canal is a step that is decades overdue," economist Abdul Nabi Abdul Muttalib told Al-Shorfa.
The three-phase project will reportedly include the construction of a logistical zone to service and supply ships, the creation of a tourism zone and the development of agricultural and industrial zones.
Some within the Egyptian agricultural sector believe the development could offer a major challenge to Dubai's current position as the region's primary transportation hub.