The Suez Canal, which has come to the fore with The Ever Given ship’s traffic cut, has hosted many civilizations, cultures, states and wars. With the Suez Canal project, which dates back to Christ, a new phase has been passed in world trade.
The world economy suffered greatly when the ship named The Ever Given landed and cut off traffic. This unexpected accident in the middle of the Suez Canal causes the world to lose billions of dollars every day. It is recorded that the traffic created by the merchant ships waiting for passage due to the ship exceeds 65 kilometres. So where is the Suez Canal, when was it opened, what is its strategic, economic and military significance? Here is the story of the Suez Canal from past to present …
The Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and opened during the Ottoman rule of Egypt.
Located in the west of the Sinai Peninsula, the Suez Canal is 193.3 kilometres long and 313 meters wide at its narrowest point. The canal allows sea transport between Asia and Europe without the need to travel around Africa.
The Suez Canal is among the most important waterways in the world. The necessity of constructing such a canal arose because the old sailors had travelled a long way and time in the trade. Suez is also the longest canal without gates in the world. Compared to other canals, the accident rate is almost zero, and the canal can be easily switched day and night.
STORY OF SUEZ CITY
The story of the Suez Canal, one of the most important trade routes in the world, dates back to the 2000s before Christ. The canal, which has witnessed many civilizations, states and wars, also gives life to the surrounding cities.
The canal takes its name from Suez in the south of the old city known as Kulzum, an important port city of Egypt on the northern coast of the Red Sea. Suez was mostly a place where pilgrims stayed before starting their sea voyage due to the water wells in the vicinity. Suez, which used to be a mansion on the pilgrimage route from Cairo, gained importance in terms of trade and military over time.
Goods arriving by ships from Asia and Africa landed at the Suez Port, were transported from there by land to the ports of Dimyat, Rashid and Alexandria in the Mediterranean, from there to Europe or Syria. The Ottomans also expanded the Suez shipyard due to its commercial importance and to ensure the maritime security of the region against Portuguese and pirates.
HISTORY OF THE SUEZ CANAL
Contrary to popular belief, the Suez Canal project is not an Ottoman dream. The idea of constructing a road/canal between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea dates back to Antiquity. Before AD XIV. century Egyptian Pharaoh II. It is known that even a canal was opened in the time of Ramses. But over time, the canal filled with sand became unusable. Although the later Pharaohs also tried to repair this canal, they did not succeed. Later, the same canal was repaired and used by the Romans and different Islamic states. During the time of Caliph Omar, the Governor of Egypt, Amr bin As had this canal repaired and used it until the 8th century.
CANAL PROJECTS OF SOKULLU MEHMET PASHA AND CAPTAIN-I DERYA KILICH ALI PASHA
In the 16th century, the Portuguese took control of the Spice Road by crossing the Indian Ocean. This advance posed a serious threat to the Ottoman lands in the east. In the face of this danger, Grand Vizier Sokullu Mehmet Pasha and Captain Derya Kilic Ali Pasha attempted to open a canal that would connect the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. However, these attempts failed for various reasons.
NAPOLEON'S CANAL IDEA
After invading Egypt in 1798, Napoleon considered opening a canal here. But French Engineer Le Pere made an erroneous measurement and said that the Red Sea is 10 meters higher than the Mediterranean Sea. For this reason, Napoleon gave up the idea of a canal.
MODERN SUEZ CANAL PROJECT
The construction of today’s Suez Canal was initiated by Said Pasha, the Egyptian Governor of the Ottoman Empire. The owner and operator of the Suez Canal project, Ferdinand de Lesseps, in a special letter sent to Ali Pasha in 1858, claimed that if the canal project could not be implemented within twenty years, the Ottoman Empire would not be able to hold even the smallest piece of land on the shores of the Red Sea.
BRITISH INVESTMENT IN EGYPT AND CANAL
The Suez Canal, with the claim that it will contribute to the development of the Ottoman Empire, the transfer of Western civilization to the East and world peace; It was opened with flamboyant ceremonies in the time of the Egyptian Governor İsmet Pasha in 1869. The policies followed in the construction and ceremony of the canal was one of the reasons the British invaded Egypt. The Ottoman State organized 1st and 2nd canal operations in order to reclaim the Suez Canal during the First World War. However, these operations failed.
The British were against the construction of the canal and made efforts to hinder it. British sailboats could not use the Suez Canal due to the reverse wind. Since British ships transported goods they bought from the Far East to England by travelling through the Cape of Good Hope, their costs were high. In 1873 British merchants went bankrupt.
EVENTS IN WHICH THE SUEZ CANAL HAS BEEN CLOSED
The Suez Canal was directly affected by the Arab-Israeli wars in the region. On July 26, 1956, Egyptian President Nasser announced that he had nationalized the Suez Canal by abolishing the international consortium controlled by France and Britain, whom he labelled “imperialists who mortgage our future”. In response, Britain and France organized a military operation in secret cooperation with Israel to take control of the Canal from Egypt. During this conflict known as the Suez Crisis and ended with the withdrawal of British and French troops following the US intervention, the Canal was closed for months.
The Arab-Israeli conflict flared up again in June 1967. When the Israeli army occupied the entire Sinai peninsula during the war, the ceasefire line between Egypt and Israel became the Suez Canal. Egypt announced that it has closed the Canal to force Israel to withdraw and to put international pressure on it. Therefore, the Canal remained closed until June 1975, when a diplomatic agreement was signed between Egypt and Israel.
Then, until 2004, the Suez Canal did not experience any closure. The Canal was closed for three days because of the stranding of Tropic Brilliance, an oil tanker that year. In 2006, due to harsh sandstorms, the Okal King Dor, a 93,000-ton cargo ship, ran aground, but the tugs managed to float the cargo ship within eight hours. In 2017, a container ship named OOCL Japan blocked the Canal as a steering gear malfunctioned. But that incident only lasted for a few hours.
SISI EXPANDED THE CANAL
Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Sisi requested that an additional 35-kilometre canal be built parallel to the Suez Canal and that the 37-kilometre part of the existing canal should be expanded and deepened. The construction started on 5 August 2014 and was put into service on 6 August 2015 with a ceremony attended by heads of state from different countries.
2021 SUEZ CANAL CLOSURE
On March 23, 2021, the Suez Canal was closed to traffic in both directions by the ultra-large Golden class container ship The Ever Given. Operated by Evergreen Marine, the ship ran aground due to a strong sandstorm. After landing, Ever Given turned sideways and completely blocked the canal. There have been disruptions in crude oil and LNG shipments around the world. While efforts to reopen the canall continue, the world economy suffers every day it stays closed.