Does the Suez Canal Connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea?

Does the Suez Canal Connect the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea?

The Suez Canal is a major choke point of world trade. Maritime transportation is vital in our daily life as it benefits everyone worldwide. Even though the developments in the aviation industry have moved people and goods faster. Still, the shipping industry remains critical to the growth of economies.

As a backbone of international trade, freight transportation. Thus, enables the movement of tones and millions of goods. Everything from toys to trucks- every day via the vast and eternal oceans and seas.

As per the International Chamber of Shipping, the shipping industry, with over 50,000 merchant ships offering service internationally. It carries out close to 90 percent of world trade.

However, not only the various natural bodies that enable the international seaborne trade but also several human interventions in marine transportation. Also, strengthened the movement of people and goods worldwide.

The artificial canals in different parts of the world have transformed international shipping by shortening shipping routes. Also, reducing operating costs.

The primary artificial canals, such as the Panama Canal, Volga-Don Canal, the Corinth Canal. Also, the Grand Canal in addition the Suez Canal, provide alternative transportation routes across major seawater networks worldwide, facilitating efficient marine transportation.

Where is the Suez Canal?

The 193.30 km (120 miles). The Suez Canal is a man made sea-level waterway situated in Egypt and links the Mediterranean Sea from the Gulf of Suez, a northern pdf of the Red Sea.

The canal opened in November 1869.

The canal, which separates Asia and the African continent, offers the shortest maritime path between Europe and the areas that share a border with the Indian Ocean from the Western Pacific Ocean.

The path from Europe through the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, transiting through the Suez Canal, cuts around 7,000 kilometres off the trip compared to the one carried out via the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans. The canal also connects Port Said in northeast Egypt with Port Tewfik in the city of Suez in the south.

The Suez Canal was built between 1859 and 1869 by the Suez Canal Company, and the Suez Canal Authority owned and maintained the waterway.

In 2015, Egypt completed a significant expansion of the Suez Canal that witnessed the deepening of the areas of the canal and the construction of a second 35km-long shipping line along part of the main waterway.

The expansion let the canal to accommodate two-way movement along part of the route and the transiting of larger vessels. As of December 2017, the planet’s largest container ship, the 400-meter long OOCL Hong Kong, passed via the Suez Canal with 21,400 containers.

Witnessing around 8 per cent of global seaborne trade annually, the canal plays a major role in the growth of Egypt’s economy. According to Reuters, the Suez Canal generated $5.3 billion in 2017.

Though the Suez Canal was never formally completed until 1869, there is a long history of connecting the Nile River in Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea with the Red

Plans To Make the Suez Canal

The concept of a canal that connects these seas and the Nile River lasted until the construction of the first canal in the area. So linking both the waters through the Nile River under the time of Senausret III, Pharaoh of Egypt (1887-1849 BC). However, the canal was often abandoned for many years following its construction.

At the same time, the canal was also reopened several times for navigation under the reign of various rulers, including Sity I (1310 BC), Necho II (610 BC), Persian King Darius (522 BC), Emperor Trajan (117 AD) and Amro Ibn Elass (640 AD), among others.

The historical documents suggest that the canal was extended, and several other attempts to build new channels were also carried out during these periods.

Modern Efforts to Make the Suez Canal

The first modern effort to make a canal came in the late 1700s. At the of Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egypt expedition. He believed that creating a French-controlled channel on the Isthmus of Suez would result in trade problems for the English as they would either have to pay dues to France or keep sending goods over land or around the southern areas of Africa.

Studies for Napoleon’s canal idea began in 1799. Still, a mistake in measurement showed the sea levels of the Mediterranean and the Red Seas as being very different for a canal to be feasible. For this reason, construction was immediately stopped.

With the rise of new Europe and the development of industry and seaborne trade, entrepreneurs began to think of building canals. One such plan aimed to connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Ocean directly. Thus, saving time to sail around Africa or transhipping freight or passengers across the Suez Peninsula.

The next attempt to make a canal in the area occurred in the middle of the1800s. It happened when a French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, convinced the Egyptian ruler Said Pasha to support the canal building.

Construction of the Suez Canal

The construction of the Suez Canal really began on April 25, 1859. 

However, the decision to build a canal connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea invited criticism from Britain. They considered the project a political scheme to weaken the country’s dominance in seaborne trade.

Britain continued to oppose the project until the Empire bought a 44 percent stake in the canal. This came after the Egyptian government auctioned off its shares in 1875 due to financial problems.

Initially, the construction of the canal was carried out by forced labourers. It is said that thousands of people were forcefully assigned to dig the canal using picks and shovels until Pasha banned the use of forced labour in 1863.

This compelled the Suez Canal Company to bring custom-made steam and coal-powered shovels and dredgers to build the canal.

With the help of this machinery, the project received the boost it required. Also, allowed the waters of the Mediterranean to flow into the Red Sea through the canal on November 17, 1869.

When it opened for navigation, the Suez Canal was 200 to 300 feet wide at the surface. In addition, it is 72 feet wide at the bottom and 25 feet deep. At the time of completion, the project’s total cost was more than twice the original estimate.

The Suez Canal and Political Crises

After the completion of the project, the Suez Canal had a serious impact on world trade despite the traffic. This is through the waterway being below expectations in the initial years.

Meanwhile, the financial problems linked with the canal construction allowed the British government to buy the stakes owned by Egyptian interests in 1875. Thus, to become the major shareholder in the Suez Canal Company.

The canal was must for the British economy as it gave it a shorter sea route to its holdings. In addition, the oilfields of the Persian Gulf.

Britain improved its control over Egypt in 1875 when the latter went bankrupt. Thereby, allowing the European banks to take control of the country financially.

Canal Ownership Today

As the French and British maintained their control over the country, it started resentment among the Egyptians. This caused Brittan to invade Egypt in 1882.

Egypt remained virtually independent due to the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, but Britain took complete control of the Suez Canal. During the First World War, Britain announced Egypt a protectorate and sent forces to protect the canal. This continued till 1922, when Britain provided nominal independence to Egypt.

Though the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty declared Egypt a sovereign state in 1936. Still, Britain only agreed to withdraw its troops from Egypt in 1956.

Also, the political unrest continued for a long time. So the Egyptian authorities shut down the canal in 1967 during the Six-day War fought by Israel and Egypt.

The canal’s closing also led to the stranding of 15 shipping vessels in the middle of the canal at the Great Bitter Lake. These vessels, known as Yellow Fleet, remained trapped until 1975. That is after Egypt reopened the Suez Canal after peace talks with Israel.

Since then, the canal remains a vital transport link connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea. Thus, allowing international ships to avoid the problematic voyage around the southern tip of Africa.

According to the Suez Canal Authority, the world’s longest canal without a lock expects to raise the daily average of moving vessels to 97 ships. Also, increase revenue of $13.226 billion by 2023.

Scroll to Top