The Suez Canal, named after the Gulf of Suez, is a 163 km channel that links the Gulf of Suez in the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It is located in Egypt, a North African country. The canal was formally completed and publicly opened in 1869. Before its construction, transport of goods for trade in Africa and the Middle East was through land. Alternatively, they had to be shipped by going around Africa via the southern parts. By constructing and opening the Suez Canal, the French intended to take control of trade between Europe and these regions. Other countries like Britain would then be forced to pay dues to the French to execute their trade.
Pre-construction of the Suez Canal
Studies and preparations for the construction of the Suez Canal began in 1799 when Napoleon Bonaparte planned a survey. The survey revealed that the sea levels of the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea were so different that there was no likelihood of a successful canal construction. Forthwith, the construction was stopped immediately after the survey. Ferdinand de Lesseps, a French engineer and diplomat, revived the vision of building the Suez Canal. He did so by convincing Said Pasha of Egypt that there was a possibility of success in the construction. Terms were agreed upon with regards to the management of the canal and Egypt quickly accepted to proceed with the construction of the Suez Canal.
Construction of the Suez Canal
Construction of the Suez Canal commenced on April 25th, 1859. It was completed and people started using it 10 years later in November 17th, 1869. The entire construction cost the French an estimate of $100 million. The construction was mainly by a French Enterprise that obtained a 99-concession for the canal called the Suez Canal Company. The success of the Suez Canal construction led to the deliberations on the construction of the Panama Canal. In the year 2014, a project to expand the Ballah Bypass of the Suez Canal was executed. The expansion cost $8.4 billion and was meant to double the canal’s capacity from the 49 ships docking in a day to 97 ships daily.
Importance of the Suez Canal
The construction of the Suez Canal made it possible to transport goods easily across water between European Countries and Africa as well as the Middle and Far East. It serves as a shorter waterway compared to the initial route whereby ships and other water vessels had to go all around Africa via the Southern parts in order to ship cargo. Hence it made transport cheaper as well as it saved the transit time. Maritime transport of bulky goods over long distances became much easier and affordable for most traders. Studies have also shown that the construction of the Suez Canal has led to a significant reduction of the world’s shipping traffic since it controls close to 8% of the shipping traffic. The Suez Canal further provides government revenue to both Egypt and France. The revenue comes from the fees paid by companies and nations who transport their goods through it. The Suez Canal is currently maintained and owned by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt.