Suez Canal

The Suez Canal is one of the most important waterways. It is located at the crossroads of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The Canal is owned and operated by Egypt and the main part of that country is separated by it on the west bank from the Sinai Peninsula on the east bank.

Suez Canal opened in 1869, the Sea level artificial waterway crosses the narrow Isthumus of Suez, joining Africa, and Asia. It is connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the isthmus of Suez.

  • The original canal featured a single-lane waterway with a passing location in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake.
Important Facts About Suez Canal:
Coordinates: 30°42′18″N – 32°20′39″E
Total length: 193.3 km
Locks: None
Navigation Authority Suez Canal Authority
Construction started: 1859
The date on which construction was completed: 17 Nov. 1869
Start point: Port Said
End Point: Suez Port

The Root of the Suez Canal:

The root permits vessels to travel between the Arabian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea via the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea.

Port Said is the northern terminus of the Canal. In the southward direction, the Suez Canal continues in a straight line through the Manzala and Timshah lakes and Ismalia

  • Ismalia- It is the capital of Ismalia Governorate and Ismalia is the head office of the Suez Canal Authority. According to the Koppen-Geiger Climatic classification, the climate of Ismalia is Bwh (hot desert).

Further south the canal passes through the Great and Little Bear Lakes (nowadays it is a single lake) and then it passes the city of Suez.

Importance of Suez Canal:

It is important strategically and economically because it shortens the distance between Europe and South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Far East.

The canal is operated and maintained by the state-owned Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt. Under the Convention of Constantinople, the Suez Canal may be used – In times of war as in the time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.

Approximately 12 percent of Global Trade and 30 percent of global container traffic traverse the Canal transporting over USD $1 trillion worth of goods per annum. In 2020, around 19,000 ships used the root.

It is a significant route for energy, commodities, consumer goods, and components from Asia and the Middle East to Europe. Its location also makes the canal a key regional hub for shipping oil and other hydrocarbons.

The canal enables the transfer of an estimated 7-10 percent of the world’s oil and approximately 8 percent of liquified natural gas.

  • The Canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. 
  • It played an important role in increasing European colonization of Africa.
  • In 1888 the Convention of Constantinople (a treaty concerning the use of the Suez Canal in Egypt, signed on 29 October 1888 by United Kingdom, the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Russian Empire, and the Ottoman Empire)declared the canal a natural zone under the protection of the British who had occupied Egypt and Sudan at the request of Khedive Tewfiq to suppress the Urabi revolt against his rule. Again it was strategically important during the First and Second World Wars.

The idea for digging the Canal:

The idea of digging the Suez Canal came across in the 19th century. Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained the rights in 1854, from Said Pash of Egypt to establish a company to build and operate for 99 years a canal open to ships of all countries.

In 1869, the construction of the Canal was completed at more than double the originally estimated cost of $41,860,000. The canal opened under French control in November 1869.

  • This Canal was widened and deepened between 1975 and 1980 to enable it to accommodate larger vessels.
  • The Egyptian government launched construction in 2014 to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass by 35 km which speeds up the canal’s transit time and doubles the capacity of the Canal from 49 to 97 ships per day.
  • The Suez Canal Authority opened the new side channel in 2016, which is on the northern side of the east extension of the Canal, and serves the East Terminal for berthing and unberthing vessels from the terminal.

Suez Canal closure: During the six-day war (on 5 June 1967), between Arabs and Israel, ships were sunk by Egypt to block the waterway, and it remained closed for 8 years. The canal reopened in 1975.

2021 Suez Canal obstruction:

In March 2021, the canal was blocked for six days by the ship Ever Given, one of the largest container ships in the world. On 23 March 2021, while traveling from Tanjung Pelepas in Malaysia to Rotterdam in the Netherlands under Captain Krishnan Kanthavel, the ship ran aground in the Suez Canal, blocking the channel. It remained here for six days before salvage crews freed her on 29 March 2021 and then the trade resumed.

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