Manama: A 950-kilometre water canal connecting the Arabian Gulf with the Arabian Sea has been suggested by a Saudi study.

According to the project by the Riyadh-based Arab Century Centre for Studies, the canal will be 630 kilometres in Saudi Arabia and 320 kilometres in Yemen and will reduce by half the distance ships are currently taking by passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

“It will be 150-metre wide and 25 metres deep,” Saad Bin Omar, the head of the centre, said. “The canal will have a main course across Saudi Arabia and Yemen; however, we have thought of Oman as an alternative for Yemen if the country suffers political instability,” he said.

Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE could export their oil through this canal up to the Arabian Sea, thus avoiding the Strait of Hormuz, he added.

According to the map, the canal will begin in the area near Bahrain and Qatar or in western UAE.

“The canal will also revive the Empty Quarter through the construction of two industrial cities, three residential towns, hotels and tourism resorts in its banks. Saudi Arabia will also achieve self-sufficiency in the fish sector thanks to pisciculture and fish farming in connected bays. In addition, there will be projects for energy generation, water desalination, residence building,” he said.

“The canal will add 1,200 kilometres of clean and splendid coasts in the Empty Quarter and will have 20 tunnels for cars and pedestrians on the Saudi side, while it will add 700 kilometres of waterfront to Yemen and revive the desert areas in the east of the country. The project will offer one million jobs to Yemenis,” he added.

A major obstacle in digging the canal will be the high elevations, he said.

“The highest altitude on the Saudi side will be 300 metres above sea level, but in Yemen or Oman, some sites will be 700 metres high,” he said.

Initial financial estimates for the mega project are around $80 billion (Dh294 billion).

“The study suggests the formation of an independent authority from the two countries with a shared capital,” he said.

However, he said that the project could be launched soon.

“Many Saudi companies are about to complete their projects and they have the necessary machines, skills and manpower. I believe digging the canal can be done within five years,” he said.

The study said the project should be called Salman Canal.

“We initially wanted to call it Arab Canal, but we agreed to name it Salman Canal, after the king of Saudi Arabia. We hope the project will be completed during his rule,” he said.