Since the Ever Given got stuck in the Suez Canal (it’s now freed), a lot of us have been looking up the Canal, and asking questions like “can ships go both ways at the same time?” (Answer: yes, if they use the bypasses, but ships usually travel in convoys, two southbound and one northbound.)
What does it cost to go through? It’s expensive: an average of $250,000 (US) per vessel.
You can learn everything you need to know from the Wikipedia article on the canal, including when it was built: surprisingly long ago, between 1859 and 1869. A few essential facts:
It offers vessels a direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans and reducing the journey distance from the Arabian Sea to London by approximately 8,900 kilometres (5,500 mi), or 8 days at 24knts (JAC: “knots”) to 10 days at 20knts. The canal extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi) including its northern and southern access-channels. In 2020, more than 18,500 vessels traversed the canal (an average of 51.5 per day).
Here’s a satellite photo of the Canal.
And a diagram of the complex setup. I always wondered if there was a bridge over it, and there is one, as well as a tunnel.
This is all an excuse to show this lovely 2½-minute GoPro video of a ship going through the canal in real time; a passage takes 11-16 hours because low speeds are mandated.
The music is a bit annoying, so you might want to turn the sound off.
You can see a similar transit of the Panama Canal (11 hours) here. I actually did half of this while lecturing on a Sci Am cruise to the Caribbean. We went through the locks, guided by those powerful “mule trains” that serve not to power the ship (it steams under its own power), but to guide it and keep it centered in the locks. After going to Lake Gatun (I got off to visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in an island in the lake), we turned around and went back out to the Caribbean.
Lagniappe: Burger King put out an ad showing a Double Whopper blocking the Canal, presumably because of its size. Predictably, some of The Easily Offended got upset, and gave several reasons for their distress.