January 27, 2011 / 4:32 PM / 9 years ago

RPT-FACTBOX-The Suez Canal

(Repeats to additional subscribers)

Jan 27 (Reuters) - The Suez Canal is one of the world’s busiest waterways and a vital source of foreign currency revenue for Egypt’s economy.

The port city of Suez has gained attention in recent days as the scene of clashes between government forces and protesters demanding the removal of President Hosni Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for three decades. [ID:nLDE70Q1KZ]

Here are some facts about the Suez Canal.

* SOME HISTORY:

— The first canal was dug under the reign of Senausret III, Pharaoh of Egypt (1887-1849 BCE) linking the Mediterranean Sea in the north with the Red sea in the south via the river Nile and its branches.

— Connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea, a new artificial waterway was planned by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. It took 10 years to complete and opened in November 1869. — The canal separates the African continent from Asia, and provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world’s most heavily used shipping lanes.

— Egypt nationalised the canal in 1956, prompting shareholders Britain and France, along with Israel, to invade. The “Suez Crisis” only ended after Egypt sank 40 ships in the canal and the United States, Soviet Union and United Nations intervened, forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw.

— The state-owned Suez Canal Authority (SCA) was established in July 1956 and runs the waterway.

— In June 1967, Egypt and some other Arab states fought Israel in what became known as the Six-Day War, with Israeli troops advancing to the east bank of the Suez Canal before a ceasefire was agreed. The canal was very badly damaged in fighting and, with opposing forces encamped on either side, remained closed until after the 1973 Yom Kippur war.

— Egypt regained full control of the canal following the Yom Kippur war and it was reopened in June 1975.

* SHIPPING DETAILS:

— The 192-km (120-mile) Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe.

— The canal is one of seven geographic choke points identified by the U.S-based Energy Information Administration (EIA). These narrow channels are critically important to the world oil trade and are also susceptible to blockages or pirate attacks.

— About 8 percent of the world seaborne trade passed through the Suez Canal in 2009.

— Tolls collected reached $4.345 billion from January to end of November 2010 compared with $3.899 billion in the same period in 2009.

— Crude oil and refined products volume accounted for around 15 percent of Suez cargoes in 2009, measured by tonnage. Over 50 percent of total tonnage was accounted for by container shipping including finished goods from electronics to toys.

— The Suez Canal Authority is continuing enhancement and enlargement projects on the canal, and extended the depth to 66 ft in 2010 to allow over 60 percent of all tankers to use the Canal.

Sources: Reuters/EIA/Suez Canal Authority: (Writing by David Cutler, Jonathan Saul and Daniel Fineren;)

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