Costa Romantica - Suez Canal - Everytime it's a adventure


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Africa » Egypt » Red Sea
April 24th 2011
Published: June 26th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Dear Friends,

Today, early in the morning, we arrived at the entrance of the Suez Canal. The weather is great, the temperature very nice and the sights are beautiful again. For us it is the second time that we are passing the Suez Canal, but the experience is still super.

To learn more about the Suez Canal you can read the article below. Thanks to Wikipedia


The Suez Canal (Arabic: قناة السويس‎ Qanāt al-Sūwais), also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation around Africa. The northern terminus is Port Said and the southern terminus is Port Tawfik at the city of Suez. Ismailia lies on its west bank, 3 km (1.9 mi) north of the half-way point.
When first built, the canal was 164 km (102 mi) long and 8 m (26 ft) deep. After multiple enlargements, the canal is 193.30 km (120.11 mi) long, 24 m (79 ft) deep and 205 metres (673 ft) wide as of 2010. It consists of the northern access channel of 22 km/14 mi, the canal itself of 162.25 km/100.82 mi and of the southern access channel of 9 km/5.6 mi.
It is single-lane with passing places in Ballah By-Pass and in the Great Bitter Lake. It contains no locks; seawater flows freely through the canal. In general, the Canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the lakes changes with the tide at Suez.
The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of the Arab Republic of Egypt. Under international treaty, it may be used "in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.

Construction by Suez Canal Company

In 1854 and 1856 Ferdinand de Lesseps obtained a concession from Sa'id Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, to create a company to construct a canal open to ships of all nations. The company was to operate the canal for 99 years from its opening. De Lesseps had used his friendly relationship with Sa'id, which he had developed while he was a French diplomat during the 1830s. As stipulated in the concessions, Lesseps convened the International Commission for the piercing of the isthmus of Suez (Commission Internationale pour le percement de l'isthme des Suez) consisting of thirteen experts from seven countries, among them McClean, President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in London, and again Negrelli, to examine the plans of Linant de Bellefonds and to advise on the feasibility of and on the best route for the canal. After surveys and analyses in Egypt and discussions in Paris on various aspects of the canal, where many of Negrelli's ideas prevailed, the commission produced a final unanimous report in December 1856 containing a detailed description of the canal complete with plans and profiles. The Suez Canal Company (Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez) came into being on 15 December 1858 and work started on the shore of the future Port Said on April 25, 1859.
The excavation took some 10 years using forced labour (Corvée) of Egyptian workers during a certain period. Some sources estimate that over 30,000 people were working on the canal at any given period, that altogether more than 1.5 million people from various countries were employed, and that thousands of laborers died on the project.
The British government had opposed the project of the canal from the outset to its completion. As one of the diplomatic moves against the canal, it disapproved the use of slave labor of forced workers on the canal. The British Empire was the major global naval force and officially condemned the forced work and sent armed bedouins to start a revolt among workers. Involuntary labour on the project ceased, and the viceroy condemned the Corvée, halting the project.
Angered by the British opportunism, de Lesseps sent a letter to the British government remarking on the British lack of remorse a few years earlier when forced workers died in similar conditions building the British railway in Egypt.
Initially international opinion was skeptical and Suez Canal Company shares did not sell well overseas. Britain, the United States, Austria, and Russia did not buy any significant number of shares. All French shares were quickly sold in France. A contemporary British sceptic claimed:
“ One thing is sure... our local merchant community doesn't pay practical attention at all to this grand work, and it is legitimate to doubt that the canal's receipts... could ever be sufficient to recover its maintenance fee. It will never become a large ships accessible way in any case. (reported by German historian Uwe A. Oster) ”

The canal opened to shipping on 17 November 1869. Although numerous technical, political, and financial problems had been overcome, the final cost was more than double the original estimate. The opening was performed by Khedive Ismail of Egypt and Sudan, and at Ismail's invitation French Empress Eugenie in the Imperial yacht Aigle, piloted by Napolean Coste who was bestowed by the Khedive the Order of the Medjidie (Blue Flame of Service c1955). The first ship to follow the yacht Aigle through the canal was the British P&O liner Delta.
After the opening of the canal, the Suez Canal Company was in financial difficulties. The remaining works were completed only in 1871, and traffic was below expectations in the first two years. Lesseps therefore tried to increase revenues by interpreting the kind of net ton referred to in the second concession (tonneau de capacité) as meaning a ship's real freight capacity and not only the theoretical net tonnage of the Moorsom System introduced in Britain by the Merchant Shipping Act in 1854. The ensuing commercial and diplomatic activities resulted in the International Commission of Constantinople establishing a specific kind of net tonnage and settling the question of tariffs in their protocol of 18 December 1873. This was the origin of the Suez Canal Net Tonnage and the Suez Canal Special Tonnage Certificate still used today.
The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on world trade. Combined with the American transcontinental railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the entire world to be circled in record time. It played an important role in increasing European colonisation of Africa. The construction of the Suez Canal was one of the reasons of the Panic of 1873, because the goods from the Far East were carried in sailing vessels around the Cape of Good Hope and were stored in British warehouses, but sailing vessels were not adaptable for use through the Suez Canal, because the prevailing winds of the Mediterranean Sea blow from west to east. External debts forced Said Pasha's successor, Isma'il Pasha, to sell his country's share in the canal for £4,000,000 to the United Kingdom in 1875, but French shareholders still held the majority. Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli was accused by William Ewart Gladstone of undermining Britain's constitutional system, due to his lack of reference or consent from Parliament when purchasing the shares with funding from the Rothschilds.
The Convention of Constantinople in 1888 declared the canal a neutral 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. They were later to defend the strategically important passage against a major Ottoman attack in 1915, during the First World War. Under the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, the United Kingdom insisted on retaining control over the canal. In 1951 Egypt repudiated the treaty, and in 1954 the U.K. agreed to remove its troops. Withdrawal was completed on 18 July 1956.

Suez Crisis

Main article: Suez Crisis
After the United Kingdom and the United States withdrew their pledge to support the construction of the Aswan Dam due to Egyptian overtures towards the Soviet Union, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal in 1956 and transferred it to the Suez Canal Authority, intending to finance the dam project using revenue from the canal. This led up to the Suez Crisis, known in the Arab World as the Tripartite Aggression, in which the U.K., and France, and Israel invaded Egypt. According to the pre-agreed war plans, the Israeli invaded Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, forcing Egypt to engage them militarily, and allowing the Anglo-French partnership to declare the resultant fighting a threat to the canal and enter the war on Israel's side.
To save the British from what he thought was a disastrous action, and to stop the war from a possible escalation, Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson, proposed the creation of the first United Nations peacekeeping force to ensure access to the canal for all, and an Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai. On 4 November 1956, a majority of nations at the United Nations voted for Pearson's peacekeeping resolution, which mandated the UN peacekeepers to stay in Sinai unless both Egypt and Israel agreed to their withdrawal. The United States backed this proposal by putting pressure on the British government by selling sterling, which would cause it to depreciate. Britain then agreed to withdraw its troops. Pearson was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. As a result of damage and ships intentionally sunk under orders from Nasser the canal was closed until April 1957, when it was cleared with UN assistance. A UN force (UNEF) was established to maintain the free navigability of the canal, and peace in the Sinai Peninsula.

Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973

In May 1967 President Nasser ordered the UN peacekeeping forces out of Sinai, including the Suez Canal area. Israel objected to the closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping. The canal itself had been closed to Israeli shipping since 1949, except for a short period in 1951-1952.
After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, also called the Six Day War, the canal was closed by an Egyptian blockade until 5 June 1975. As a result, fourteen cargo ships known as "The Yellow Fleet" remained trapped in the canal for over eight years. In 1973, during the October War, the canal was the scene of a major crossing by the Egyptian army into Israeli-occupied Sinai, and in the later stage of the war, a crossing by the Israeli army to African Egypt. Much wreckage from this conflict remains visible along the canal's edges.

A US Navy RH-53D sweeping the Suez Canal in 1974.

In reaction to the October War the United States initiated Operation Nimbus Moon. The helicopter carrier USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) was sent to the Canal, carrying twelve RH-53D minesweeping helicopters of HM-12. These partly cleared the Suez Canal between May and December 1974. She was relieved by the LST USS Barnstable County (LST1197). The British Royal Navy initiated ( Operation Rheostat) and Task Group 65.2 provided the RN Minehunters, HMS Maxton, HMS Bossington & HMS Wilton and HMS Abdiel a Practice Minelayer / MCMV Support Ship which spent two periods of 6 months in 1974 and in 1975 based at Ismailia. When the Canal Clearance Operations were completed, the Suez Canal and its lakes were considered 99% clear of mines. The Canal was then reopened by President Sadat aboard an Egyptian destroyer which led the first convoy Northbound to Port Said in 1975.
The UNEF mandate expired in 1979. Despite the efforts of the United States, Israel, Egypt, and others to obtain an extension of the UN role in observing the peace between Israel and Egypt, as called for under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty of 1979, the mandate could not be extended because of the veto by the USSR in the security council, at the request of Syria. Accordingly, negotiations for a new observer force in the Sinai produced the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO), stationed in Sinai in 1981 in coordination with a phased Israeli withdrawal. It is there under agreements between the United States, Israel, Egypt, and other nations.


Capacity

Ships moored at El Ballah during transit
Main article: Suezmax
The canal allows passage of ships up to 20 m (66 ft) draft or 240,000 deadweight tons and up to a maximum height of 68 m (223 ft) above water level and a maximum beam of 77.5 m (254 ft) under certain conditions.
Some supertankers are too large to traverse the canal. Others can offload part of their cargo onto a canal-owned boat to reduce their draft, transit, and reload at the other end of the canal.


A graphical comparison between the North East Passage (blue) and an alternative route through Suez Canal

The main alternative is travelling around the Cape of Good Hope at the south of the African continent. This was the only route before the canal was constructed, and—more recently—when the canal was closed. It is still the only route for ships which are too large for the canal. In the early 21st century the long route has enjoyed increased popularity because of increasing piracy in Somalia. Between 2008 and 2010, it is estimated that the canal has lost 10% of traffic due to the threat of piracy, and another 10% due to the financial crisis. An oil tanker going from Saudi Arabia to the United States has 2,700 miles longer to go when taking the route south of Africa rather than the canal.
Before the canal's opening in 1869 goods were sometimes offloaded from ships and carried overland between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
In recent years, the shrinking Arctic sea ice has also made the Northern Sea Route viable for commercial cargo ships plying between Europe and East Asia during a six-to-eight week window in the summer months, shaving off thousands of miles from the voyage compared to the Suez Canal. According to polar climate researchers, as the extent of the Arctic summer ice pack recedes, the route will become passable without the help of icebreakers for a greater period each summer.
The Bremen-based Beluga Group claimed in 2009 to be the first Western company to attempt crossing the Northern Sea Route for shipping without assistance from icebreakers, cutting 4000 nautical miles off the journey between Ulsan, Korea and Rotterdam, Holland.

Operation

USS Bainbridge, an American warship in the Suez Canal
The canal has no locks due to the flat terrain, and the minor sea level difference between each end is inconsequential for shipping.
There is one shipping lane with passing areas in Ballah-Bypass near El Qantara and in the Great Bitter Lake. On a typical day, three convoys transit the canal, two southbound and one northbound. The first southbound convoy enters the canal in the early morning hours and proceeds to the Great Bitter Lake, where the ships anchor out of the fairway, awaiting passage of the northbound convoy. The northbound convoy passes the second southbound convoy, which moors in Ballah-Bypass. The passage takes between 11 and 16 hours at a speed of around 8 knots (15 km/h; 9 mph). The low speed helps prevent erosion of the canal banks by ships' wakes.
By 1955 approximately two-thirds of Europe's oil passed through the canal. About 7.5% of world sea trade is carried via the canal today. In 2008, a total of 21,415 vessels passed through the canal and the receipts from the canal totaled $5.381 billion, with the average cost per-ship at roughly $251,000.
New Rules of Navigation that constitute an improvement over the older ones were passed by the board of directors of the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) to organise vessels’ and tankers’ transit that came into force as of 1 January 2008.
The most important amendments to the Rules include allowing vessels with 62-foot (19 m) draught to transit and increasing the allowed breadth from 32 metres (105 ft) up to 40 metres (130 ft) following improvement operations, as well as imposing a fine on vessels using divers without permission from outside the SCA inside the canal boundaries.
The amendments also allow vessels loaded with dangerous cargo, such as radioactive or inflammable materials, to transit, if they conform with the latest amendments provided by international conventions.
The SCA also has the right to determine the number of tugs required to assist warships transiting the canal to achieve the highest degree of safety during transit.
The vast Suez Canal can handle more ship traffic and larger ships than the Panama Canal.

Connections between the shores

From north to south connections are:
The Suez Canal Bridge, also called the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge, is a high-level road bridge at El Qantara. In Arabic, al qantara means "the bridge". It has a 70-metre (230 ft) clearance over the canal and was built with assistance from the Japanese government and by PentaOcean Construction.
El Ferdan Railway Bridge 20 km (12 mi) north of Ismailia was completed in 2001 and is the longest swing span bridge in the world, with a span of 340 m (1100 ft). The previous bridge was destroyed in 1967 during the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Pipelines taking fresh water under the canal to Sinai, about 57 km (35 mi) north of Suez, at 30°27.3′N 32°21.0′E.
Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel south of the Great Bitter Lake was built in 1983. Because of leakage problems, a new water-tight tunnel was built inside the old one, from 1992 to 1995.
The Suez Canal overhead line crossing powerline was built in 1999.
A railway on the west bank runs parallel to the canal for its entire length.

Environmental impact

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 created the first salt-water passage between the Mediterranean and Red seas. Although the Red Sea is about 1.2 m (4 ft) higher than the eastern Mediterranean, the current between the Mediterranean and the middle of the canal at the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. The current south of the Bitter Lakes is tidal, varying with the height of tide at Suez. The Bitter Lakes, which were hypersaline natural lakes, blocked the migration of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean for many decades, but as the salinity of the lakes gradually equalised with that of the Red Sea, the barrier to migration was removed, and plants and animals from the Red Sea have begun to colonise the eastern Mediterranean. The Red Sea is generally saltier and more nutrient-poor than the Atlantic, so the Red Sea species have advantages over Atlantic species in the salty and nutrient-poor eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly, most Red Sea species invade the Mediterranean biota, and only few do the opposite. This migratory phenomenon is called Lessepsian migration (after Ferdinand de Lesseps) or Erythrean invasion. Also impacting the eastern Mediterranean, starting in 1968, was the operation of Aswan High Dam across the River Nile. While providing for increased human development, the project both reduced the inflow of freshwater and ended all natural nutrient-rich silt from entering the eastern Mediterranean at the adjacent Nile Delta. This provided less natural dilution of Mediterranean salinity and ended the higher levels of natural turbidity, additionally making conditions more like those in the Red Sea.
Invasive species originated from the Red Sea and introduced into the Mediterranean by the construction of the canal have become a major component of the Mediterranean ecosystem, and have serious impacts on the Mediterranean ecology, endangering many local and endemic Mediterranean species. Currently about 300 species from the Red Sea have been identified in the Mediterranean Sea, and there are probably others yet unidentified. The Egyptian government's intent to enlarge the canal has raised concerns from marine biologists, fearing that this will worsen the invasion of Red Sea species in the Mediterranean.
Construction of the Suez Canal was preceded by cutting a small fresh-water canal from the Nile delta along Wadi Tumilat to the future canal, with a southern branch to Suez and a northern branch to Port Said. Completed in 1863, these brought fresh water to a previously arid area, initially for canal construction, and subsequently facilitating growth of agriculture and settlements along the canal.

Timeline

Circa 1799—Napoleon Bonaparte conquers Egypt and orders a feasibility analysis. This reports a supposed 10-metre (33 ft) difference in sea levels and a high cost, so the project is put on hold.
Circa 1840—A second survey finds the first analysis incorrect. A direct link between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea is possible and not as expensive as previously estimated.
30 November 1854—The former French consul in Cairo, Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps, obtains the first license for construction and subsequent operation from the Viceroy for a period of 99 years.
6 January 1856—Lesseps is provided with a second, more detailed license.
15 December 1858—Lesseps establishes the "Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez", with Said Pacha acquiring 22% of the Suez Canal Company; the majority is still controlled by French private holders.
25 April 1859—The Suez Canal construction officially starts.
16 November 1869—The Suez Canal is opened, being owned and operated by Suez Canal Company.
18 December 1873—The International Commission of Constantinople establishes the Suez Canal Net Ton and the Suez Canal Special Tonnage Certificate (as known today)
25 November 1875—Britain becomes a minority share holder in the Suez Company, acquiring 44% of the Suez Canal Company, with the remainder being controlled by French business syndicates.
20 May 1882—Britain invades Egypt, with French assistance, and begins its occupation of Egypt.
25 August 1882—Britain takes control of the canal.
2 March 1888—The Convention of Constantinople renews the guaranteed right of passage of all ships through the Suez Canal during war and peace; these rights were already part of the licenses awarded to Lesseps, but are recognized as international law.
14 November 1936—Following a new treaty, Britain theoretically pulls out of Egypt, but establishes the 'Suez Canal Zone', under its control.
13 June 1956—Suez Canal Zone is restored to Egyptian sovereignty, following final British withdrawal and years of negotiations.
26 July 1956—Egypt nationalizes the Suez Canal Company; all its Egyptian assets, rights and obligations are transferred to the Suez Canal Authority, which compensates the previous owners at the established pre-nationalization price.
31 October 1956 to 24 April 1957—Suez Canal is blocked to shipping following the planned invasion of the eastern Sinai by Israel, and later French and British, occupation of the Suez Canal Zone.
22 December 1956 — The canal zone is restored to Egyptian control, following French and British withdrawal, and the landing of UNEF troops.
5 June 1967 to 10 June 1975—Suez Canal is blocked by Egypt, following an Israeli attack; it becomes the front line during the ensuing War of Attrition and the 1973 war, remaining closed to international shipping, until general agreement was near.
1 January 2008—New rules of navigation passed on by the Suez Canal Authority come into force.


Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for mor photo travelblogs about our cruise with the Costa Romantica - Mauritius - Savona (Italy).

From the living sea with love

Jacqueline and Adriaan
alias Monkey and Bear


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