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Before what is given? A look at the crises that closed Suez

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Since the opening of the Suez Canal in Egypt in 1869, it has become a source of national pride, the focus of international conflicts. It is one of the world’s largest sea lanes, connecting the Red and Mediterranean Seas with a narrow corridor that spans thousands of miles east-west.

Now another type of crisis has brought the Suez Canal to the world’s attention. Last week, a container ship the size of a skyscraper called the Ever Given sank in the water. The obstruction has disrupted canal traffic, estimated at more than $ 9 billion a day, disrupting the global delivery network, which is already plagued by a coronavirus epidemic. Hundreds of ships waiting to cross the canal have gathered in a huge traffic jam. The bow of the ship is still firmly planted on the east coast, but other cargo carriers prefer to travel a long way around the “Cape of Good Hope”.

Last year, nearly 19,000 ships passed through the Suez Canal, carrying more than 10% of world trade, including 7% of world oil. While its shutdown this week is historic, the canal is no stranger to disruption. Here are some of the major incidents that have closed or threatened the blockade in the past.


In 1956, then-Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal. The pledge, hailed by the Egyptians as an inviolable break with European imperialism, prompted Britain, France, Israel to intervene militarily to seize the canal zone.

As the fighting raged, the wrecked ships were closed for months. The United States and the Soviet Union, which were openly opposed to the invasion, eventually forced the three countries to withdraw. Egypt was able to reopen the canal in March 1957, which was seen in the region as a victory for pan-Arab nationalism.


A decade later, in 1967. During the outbreak of the Middle East War, Egypt closed the canal to international cargo as Israeli forces again attacked the canal and took root in the Sinai Peninsula. This time the canal was closed for eight years. Accumulating mines, bombs, and sinking vessels, the aqueduct became a fortified trench during the war. Only after peace talks with Israel did Nasser’s successor, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, reopen the pipeline in 1975.

During the closure, more than a dozen cargo ships were stranded through the Great Bitter Lake Canal. According to a UN study, the closed canal cost the world $ 1.7 billion in lost trade, increased shipping costs, and $ 250 million a year in lost payments to Egypt.

The cut-off forced European-bound ships to avoid Suez bypassing the southern tip of Africa, encouraging cargo carriers to find economies of scale by developing more and more supercars. A trend that, ironically, led to the inflating of ships to the size of a mountain range.


The Al Canal separates mainland Egypt from the calm Sinai Peninsula, where the Egyptian armed forces are fighting a long-running insurgency led by a local branch of the Islamic State group. Violence has threatened to disrupt global trade. In the summer of 2013, a militant group called the “Furkan Brigades” in Sinai fired rocket-propelled grenades at two ships in the pipeline, causing minor damage. Despite repeated promises to target the pipeline, Egyptian militants have so far been unable to control naval traffic there.


The vicinity of the ships has previously been closed by a narrow aqueduct, which can be difficult to navigate when visibility is poor. The first reported accident occurred in 1937, when strong winds and rain prevented a British Indian-owned Viceroy passenger plane from entering a bank and suspending its voyage for a day. Over the centuries, several other trucks have crashed or briefly closed the pipeline for up to three days, including a Greek-owned oil tanker in 1954, a Russian tanker in 2004, and a container ship that sank in 2018. ship collision.

In each case, they have seized it, despite obstacles we can scarcely imagine. ” The ship has never been as wide as a canal.


The 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) Japanese-owned Panamanian-flagged ship Ever Given, carrying cargo through Asia’s Europe, was blocked by a series of canals last Tuesday. The ship’s crew claims that it hit the shore due to a strong wind and sandstorm, but the reasons for this remain unclear. Egyptian authorities said on Saturday that human error could be a factor.

The detachment of tug-of-war diggers continued their struggle for liberation on Sunday. But without any significant progress, the authorities may have to unload the ship’s containers, an operation that could take days.


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