Celebrating 145 Years of the Suez Canal in Egypt
Historically, Egypt has been in the supply chain business for a very long time, and modern shipping methods still rely on its Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal is the first canal to link together the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and officially became available to the world for navigation and transport back in November 17th, 1869.
Egypt has been ahead of the game in so many ways (and many more I am sure we still have yet to learn about –if we ever do) and the modern world is in debt to its very serious interest in activating global trade.
The actions of Egypt’s global trade dream have echoed through generations to bring us all of our imported food and vegetables, iPhones and trinkets. Probably taken for granted by 99.9% of the world’s population, we thought we’d give a little credit where credit is due.
With last year’s 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal, it is only fitting that the much older Suez Canal get a little attention, too.
Origins of Egypt’s 145 Year-Old Canal
Once opened up to the public in 1869, the artificial waterway we fondly refer to as the Suez Canal was able to assist travellers and traders to navigate between Europe and Eastern-Asia instead of being forced to work around Africa.
This is a big deal for so many reasons; Africa is a lot larger in real life than it appears on a Mercator Map, and navigating the required 7,000 extra kilometers around it was dangerous, immensely time-consuming, and costly. Not a good mix when you’re shipping livestock or vegetables!
When the Suez Canal was originally built in the late 1800’s it was 164 kilometers in length, and spanned the distance between Port Said and Port Tewfik in Suez. Additional advancements and enlargements took place in the years to follow, bringing its size dimensions to almost 194 kilometers in length, and 24 meters deep, and 205 meters wide.
Today the Suez Canal has the capacity for 49 ships hauling their cargo through it daily.
Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal is a mostly single lane canal without any locks. It allows seawater to flow freely through it. North of the Bitter Lakes the Suez Canal’s directional water flow flows one way in the summer, and another in the winter. In the southern parts of the Suez Canal, below the Bitter Lakes, the directional flow is naturally controlled by the tide native to Suez, Egypt.
Last August the Suez Canal Authority, the body that has controlled and maintained the Suez Canal since it was handed over from the Universal Company of Suez Maritime Canal –began the construction of an ambitious $8.4 billion dollar expansion to the canal in the form of a second finger which will run alongside existing infrastructure for approximately have the distance of the Suez Canal’s length.
Once completed an estimated year-long construction phase, this new modification to the canal will allow for double the shipping capacity; increasing the number of ships which can make their way through the Suez Canal from 49 ships per day to just shy of 100 –and will clock in at around 97 ships per day.
Adding it all up, that means that 2012’s 17,000+ ships which traversed the Suez Canal will be upended and somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35,000+ by 2016.
Suez Canal Politics
All of the investment for the new Suez Canal modifications came from Egyptian individuals and organisations. This is a much different story from how it originally came to be.
When the original Suez Canal was constructed, it was funded by both Egyptian and French investors. However when financial devastation rocked Egypt back in 1875, President Nasser sold all of his stake in the canal operating company to the British Government.
The Brits acquired a 44% share for a mere £44 billion, and in 1882 after a progressing downward spiral, they had invaded the country, took over all assets and of course, the canal.
After that, most of the drama surrounded Britain only allowing allies to use the canal and of course –oil. By 1955 petroleum had accounted for a staggering 50% of all cargo passing through it.
Skipping ahead, the canal was nationalized in 1956, right around the time of the Tripartite Aggression, also known as the Suez Crisis.
Long story short, the conflict was led by Israel, followed by Britain and France, and dismantled by the Soviet Union and the United States, side by side. In the end, the latter superpowers scared away the former and a peace deal was worked out.
In terms of war today, the Suez Canal Authority ensures the availability of the canal to all, whether in wartime or times of peace. But don’t let that make you misty; these things change at the drop of an oil drop.
We couldn’t just discuss politics, oil, and war –and not get into the environmental impact the canal has today.
Scientists are rallying against the new channel construction (which is now underway) for fear it will bring in invasive species which will have a negative effect on the local environment, it’s people, and it’s economy.
Of the 700 non-indigenous species in the area, it is observed that approximately 350 of them which were introduced to the region through the canal.
These species blanket beaches with jelly-fish, making fishing impossible, and possess toxic consequences for humans which come into contact with them.
Who knows where it goes from here –the plan to advance the canal is going forward and whether the surrounding environment around it can take anymore or not remains to be seen.
The Suez Canal has shaped so many aspects of our lives as it is, it’s an incredibly valuable canal and it isn’t without its own personal struggles and challenges.
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