The Suez Canal was completed in 1869, a once-unrivalled feat of modern engineering. Linking the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, the passage continues to provide a pivotal maritime route between Europe and Asia.
The Suez Canal drastically cuts down the time and distance it takes to sail between the Mediterranean Sea and Indian and Pacific Oceans; where ships taking the longer Cape route, around the tip of Africa, travel a total distance of 11,720 nautical miles from Rotterdam to Singapore, they only take 8,440 nautical miles using the Suez Canal as a shortcut.
The Canal itself has seen numerous expansions throughout its 150-plus-year history. The most recent, the New Suez Canal completed in 2015, expanded the Ballal Bypass by 251 metres to an official length of 312 metres wide. The purpose of these projects is to update the waterway to the realities of modern shipping.
Indeed, in recent history, container ships have been getting bigger and bigger – these larger container ships offer important economies of scale to shippers in the form of greater efficiency in transporting goods. Since the 1960s, container-carrying capacity has ballooned by almost
1,500 percent. Modern ships keep growing – almost exponentially. According to findings from Allianz Global Corporate and Specialty (AGCS), the largest ships were around 21,400 TEU in 2017. Just two years later, ships were being built in the 24,000-25,000 TEU range. Some of the largest container ships today measure nearly 400 metres in length and over 30 metres in depth.
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