Before the building of the Suez Canal, European merchants had two choices to get goods to and from Asia: Sail south around the Horn of Africa or haul their merchandise overland. Today, authorities plan to expand the man-made Suez Canal shortcut. The wider waterway should save time and avoid tricky jam-ups.
Egypt’s Suez Canal was completed in 1869. It divides Africa and Asia and joins the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea (two God-made waterways!) through the Isthmus of Suez. According to recent statistics, an average of about 52 vessels per day use the 120-mile canal to shorten their trips from Europe to Asia and back.
In 2021, the huge container ship Ever Given disrupted international shipping when it got stuck in the southern section of the canal for about a week. The ship had run aground after strong winds blew it off course. Operator error let the big vessel shift sideways across the canal. (See Ship Blocks Suez Canal.)
At one point, more than 400 ships sat stranded in the channel. During the blockage, experts predicted that the bottleneck would likely affect almost the entire world’s economy—especially shipments of crude oil.
Shortly after the incident, the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) began lengthening a portion of the famous canal. The portion chosen for expansion has a second lane. It allows for two-way traffic in a southern section of the canal near where Ever Given got stuck.
According to the SCA, the two-way portion of the canal will grow from 45 miles to 51 miles. Workers will also deepen parts of those lanes from 66 feet to 71 feet.
SCA Chairman Osama Rabie says widening the entire length of the Red Sea-Mediterranean link is too expensive.
Authorities predict the canal enlargement project will be finished in July 2023.
Rabie says the purpose of the expansion is to increase traffic safety, not speed. He says the time to pass through the canal will remain at 11 hours. It’s still a relatively quick trip—since the next fastest way usually takes about 10 days longer!
Why? Faster, farther, higher, deeper: Humans are constantly using their God-given intellect to try to advance some aspect of life on Earth.