The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is an artificial waterway connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Geography

Keywords

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The Suez Canal is a 192-km-long (119-mi-long) artificial waterway located in present-day Egypt.

The canal was built between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to shorten shipping routes between Asia and Europe.

The idea of building an artificial canal already emerged during the reign of Egyptian pharaohs. In the 19th century B.C., a canal was constructed between the Nile and the Red Sea which then used to lay further north. By the 7th century B.C., this canal disappeared because of the dry climate of the region at the time. Similarly to today's canal, the construction of a canal running north to south began in the 6th century B.C., and it reached the Red Sea by the 3rd century B.C. The canal, which had been neglected and restored several times, became silted up by the end of the 8th century A.D.

After almost a thousand years, the French, led by Ferdinand de Lesseps, began to build the current Suez Canal in 1859. Construction was completed ten years later, in 1869. The canal was under British control from 1882 until 1956, when Egypt nationalized it. The Suez Canal was closed from 1967 until 1975 because of the Arab-Israeli conflicts. The expansion of the artificial waterway began in 2014. The creation of a new canal and the deepening and widening of the existing one enabled two-way traffic on the Suez Canal. Transit times also shortened from 18 hours to 11 hours.

The Suez Canal does not follow a straight line; it flows through several lakes. It is one of the world's longest waterways with no lock system.

The canal is more than 20 meters (66 feet) deep; at a depth of 11 meters (36 feet) it is at least 200 meters (656 feet) wide, but it is continually deepened and widened. The constant dredging of the canal is indispensable due to frequent sandstorms in the region.

Without the canal, journeys between Asia and Europe would be thousands of kilometers longer since ships would have to travel all the way around Africa. Shipping routes from Asia to the east coast of America are also shorter through the Suez Canal than through the Panama Canal.

Routes

The Suez Canal is one of the most important and busiest artificial waterways in the world. It is Egypt's main source of income. Most of the vessels transiting it travel between Asia and Europe, but ships from all other continents also pass through the canal.

Traffic

There are about 18,000–20,000 ships transiting the Suez Canal each year. This constitutes about 10% of all seaborne trade. Although the number of vessels passing through the canal has been stagnating since the late 2000s, the amount of cargo is constantly increasing thanks to the growing cargo capacity of ships.

Vessel types

It is mostly container ships that pass through the Suez Canal. However, the number of oil tankers and dry bulk carriers is also significant. Ships transit the canal in convoys; on an average day, there are two convoys traveling south and one traveling north.

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