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Suez Canal Transits: Cruisers' Experiences

By Sue/Val — last modified Jul 18, 2017 04:23 PM

Published: 2017-07-17 23:00:00
Countries: Egypt

Posted July 2017
Transiting the Suez Canal - May 2017

Some people we met in El Gouna near Hurgada recommended an agent in Suez for transiting the Canal. They said he was very good. He is a solo operator and not associated with one of the big agencies like Prince of the Red Sea or Felix. He may have worked for them.

His name is Captain Magdy Salah, phone +20 1005291488 email: info@juneshipping.com. We communicated mostly with him on Whatsapp. after we had met him. He is also on Facebook.

The first time we called him by satphone just before we arrived in Suez Yacht Club. I had imagined a big marina there but it was a modest affair. Nobody stays there long ! You get fixed to moorings fore and aft. The Marina operator is called Karkar and he can ferry you from your boat to the dock and he can do much more, for a fee of course.

Captain Magdy came after we were moored and he had a look around and stated that we could transit for US$300 " all in". We were, after all, a small boat, (34 feet). And that was what we paid him. No hassle, no "forgotten fees" later, no extra bakshees , it was just as he had told us. We were surprised and (after Fatty Goodlander's stories) we couldn't hardly believe it . (Our Buddyboater Steven paid over $US400 for his 40+ feet yacht to Prince of the R.S.)

The only problem we had was not of Magdy's making but of the Suez Canal Authorities. They didn't accept our ships registration paper and demanded that we went to the Dutch Embassy in Cairo to get those papers "authenticated" with a stamp. A few months earlier we had changed our English ships papers (SSR) for Dutch because there was a warning on Noonsite that the Suez Canal Authorities were difficult with the SSR registration for the UK. Now we had the same problem, but with the Dutch papers.

As we were going to spend a week in Cairo anyways it was no big deal and we went to the Dutch embassy where they told us that they had "never, ever" had this problem before. Unfortunately they wrote a letter( in Arabic) to the Suez Canal, forgetting to mention the name of the boat so we had to go back again for a new letter!!!. The Dutch embassy is in a beautiful part of Cairo so it was no hardship, but we do not understand what the problem is with ships registration papers at the moment. In the Netherlands you are not required by law to register your boat, so the Watersport Association is issuing those registrations, but the Suez canal wanted something more "legal" we assume. They wanted legal "stamps". "Bureaucrazy" we call it! The Embassy scanned the letter and sent it to Magdy and then things were quickly solved.

We had a fantastic week in Cairo. Never had problems with bakshees, nobody asks anymore, new generation. Maybe the Arabic Spring? Anyway, promising. We stayed in the centre of the City at a famous pension called "Roma" which is something special out of the 1920's on the 4th floor with a wonderful old lift which works, mostly! Our crewmember, Lucas Ayoub, is half Egyptian and the lady owner of Roma is a good friend of Lucas's grandmother. We had a very lovely clean room for $US18 a night with tv, aircon and bathroom and including breakfast. www.pensionroma.com.eg We went to the pyramids of course (and rode a camel) and even to an IMax cinema to see the latest Guardians of The Galaxy film in 3D. Wow!

We also had a kind of "private" driver who charged $US 40 for driving the three of us for over 6 hours. He can go very close to the pyramids with the car and can also take you back to Suez, or go shopping, which he did with us. Very good driver: Ahmed +20 1007400973. Speaks English.

Karkar had filled our gasbottle and jerrycans with diesel when we were away, so we paid him for that and for looking after the boat when we came back to SYC. Those were all reasonable amounts of money. The boat had to be measured, which happened the next day, and then we paid Magdy and got our passports stamped and the clearance paper. We were ready to transit at last.

We left the next morning around 10 am with the pilot. We told him that we were steering the boat and that it was not his task. Just to be clear. It is, by the way, a very easy trip. Our boat is very slow, we do max. 4,5 knots with the engine and we had a strong current against us so we were, at one moment, doing no more than 2 knots.The pilot was despairing. There was some wind at the end of the afternoon so the pilot gave permission to hoist the sails. The wind became stronger and stronger and one moment we decided to reef, it became uncomfortable and the pilot looked a bit green. Water came over in the cockpit and the pilot became wet. I asked him if he wanted a dry T-shirt and his eyes started gleaming because he thought I was offering him a brand new "boat" shirt, but when he got an old shirt from Tony he threw it away. Then I asked if he wanted a towel and again he thought he was getting a beautiful fluffy bath towel, but he threw my old towel away also. He was an "old school" pilot totally conditioned to be a Prince. He had already asked me, when my crew was not present, if I had perfume for his wife or skin care products..no.? I asked him then what his wife had to do with this all, but he was of course fishing for extra presents. He complained when we dropped him off at the Ismalia Y.C. in the dark at 2200 hrs. that it was so late.

 

Captain Magdy had told us to be modest with "presents", $US10 and some cigarettes were sufficient according to him, and if the pilots were not happy and complaining then we had to take it all back. It was "all or nothing" according to Magdy. Good advice. So in the end they got 10 US$, box of cigarettes and a piece of fabric (sarong) for Malaysiac the wife. Nice?

We are still wondering where the notion that those men "needed" a present for just doing their jobs, came from. They are totally spoilt. But there is hope....Our second pilot was a young man (30) and we were the 7th yacht he was piloting. Lucky 7. He didn't want feeding and was completely indifferent about asking for "presents" and instead he had a present for us !!

He gave all of us a old Egyptian one pound note which is not valid anymore but which has a beautiful picture on the front....as a souvenir he said. That was lovely of him. He didn't smoke but was happy with some cigarettes "to bribe other people..". What a country.

We stayed three nights at Ismailia because there was bad weather in the Med. The first two nights we were at anchor but we were not allowed on the premises of the Ismalia Yacht Club, "only when we paid for a mooring". According to Magdy this was not true. We were not allowed to go to town (we had cleared out in Suez) but we should be welcome at the yacht club....which we weren't. We paid US$21 for one night and had a nice dinner at the club and bought some food for the pilot the next day (which he didn't want).

We left Ismailia at 4 am in the morning and then we transited the last part of the Canal and at the end of the afternoon we sailed into the Mediterranean on our way to Ashkelon in Israel. In hindsight we wished we had sailed straight to Cyprus. Much nicer there and much cheaper. But you live and learn...

 

Report by Karin and Tony from Amber Nectar.

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Posted May 2017

We are on a circumnavigation from Sydney, Australia and are now in Haifa, Israel.

There was a fair bit of research done for our voyage to the Red Sea and the Suez Canal transit. Please find below our experience in Egypt, in the end it was quite easy! However, we can offer some warnings to those that follow, especially about having an authentic Ship Registration. Suez is a miserable place to be stuck waiting for verification!

Robert Burn

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Suez Canal Transit: 06/05/2017

“Wai-O-Tira” made a transit of the Suez Canal on the 06/05/2017 after a brief stop to see the pyramids in Cairo. Originally we had planned on doing this as “ship in transit” to avoid exposing ourselves to Egyptian larceny, but were persuaded to make the trip to Cairo by the local representative of Felix Shipping Agency in Suez. This proved to be a mistake as the local Agent ended up raking off over US$200 on our charges, costing us $500 for the tour.

Another vessel was detained as there was some doubt about the veracity of their Ship Registration Certificate. It must look genuine and be original. It is recommended that the Crew List and scanned passports be emailed to the Agent well before getting to Suez. Facilities at Suez are bereft, and the moorings not cheap, and the same applies at Ismailia, where the toilet block is filthy. Notably, Aqaba in Jordan is clean, gracious, and the fuel much cheaper.

The vessel measurements bore no resemblance to the Convention, and no Tonnage Certificate issued. We received no invoices for the SCA charges. The Navy turned up late at night and made no inspection, and we were asked for various “tips” before we even started.

Competence of the Pilots varied widely. Our first young pilot was most attentive and professional. The second pilot from Ismailia was an older cowboy who spent much time chatting on his phone and VHF, and twice almost brought down our rigging when he took us up the Western channel against the flow of traffic, and came way too close to Port markers.

When we arrived at Port Said he wanted to jump onto a heavy Pilot boat whilst we were underway, and we had to wave off this other vessel until we had taken the way off our boat. This fellow also took money off us as “tips” for the Police, and demanded a reference, probably to protect himself from complaints. He lied about an opening bridge that we knew did not exist. We have indeed filed a complaint to our Agents and the SCA with no response.

We recommend that all others that make this transit are fully prepared before Suez, and then attend their helms at all times when underway. It is actually an easy passage!

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