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Home » Innovation » Maritime Image of the Day: “The Opening of the Suez Canal” (1869)

Maritime Image of the Day: “The Opening of the Suez Canal” (1869)

The opening of the Suez Canal on November 17, 1869 (Credit: The Print Collector/Getty Images)

PortandTerminal.com, November 17, 2019

HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA – This year is the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Suez Canal. As every schoolchild learns, the canal is a man-made waterway connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea. It enables a more direct route for shipping between Europe and Asia, effectively allowing for passage from the North Atlantic to Asia without having to circumnavigate the African continent. Vessels that use the canal shorten their trip between Europe and Asia by over 4,000 miles (7,000 km).

Located in Egypt, it is 120 miles (193 km) long, 78 feet deep(24 m), and 673 feet wide (205 m). The channel extends from the northern terminus of port Sa’id to the southern port Tewfik.

The first vessels through the canal (1869). The original canal did not have any locks.

Over 17,000 ships each year pass through the Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, which means that almost 50 ships per day make the transit.

Using the canal is not cheap. Vessels sailing from Asia to the East Coast via the Suez Canal have to pay on average US$465,000 for passage, according to SeaIntel, which calculated that the South Africa route would save an average of US$235,000 per voyage. Total revenues are over $3 billion per year, making the Suez Canal a major revenue source for Egypt and something worth fighting for.

Ownership of the Canal

The Suez Crisis was an invasion of Egypt in late 1956 by Israel, followed by the United Kingdom and France. The aims were to regain Western control of the Suez Canal and to remove Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who had just nationalized the canal.

The United Kingdom and France owned the canal until July 1956, when the President of Egypt, Gamal Abdel Nasser, nationalized it – an event which led to the Suez Crisis of October–November 1956. The canal is now owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt.

An old idea

Pharaoh Senusret III is credited with early work to construct a canal along the lines of the Suez

The Suez Canal is an ancient conception. The idea of linking the Mediterranean to the Red sea dates to as far back as 1800 BC during the times of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

According to ancient writers, activity leading to the modern-day Suez canal most likely started with Pharaoh Senusret III also known as Sesostris (1878 BC – 1839 BC).

Because of the many branches of the Nile river at the time, he initiated works on the Sesostris canal in an attempt to link the Mediterranean to the Red sea utilizing the branches of the Nile river. But it was not completed, the reason being the difference in height between the Nile River and the Red sea.

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