On November 17, 1869, the Suez Canal opened to traffic. The canal runs through the northeastern corner of Egypt, between the cities of Port Said in the north and Suez in the south. The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean and Red Seas—by crossing the canal, ships no longer have to make a long voyage around the tip of Africa.
 
The Suez Canal allows ships with up to about 20 meters (66 feet) of draft and about 68 meters (223 feet) of air draft. This is the depth below water level (draft) and height above water level (air draft). Vessels of this configuration are called Suezmax. Ships that are too laden (usually with oil) to meet the Suezmax standards have to offload their cargo. Cargo can be transported to other ships, while oil can also be deposited in a pipeline linking the canal’s two ports.
 
In the early 21st century, rising fees to use the canal, the increasing size of oil tankers, and the growing threat of piracy off northeast Africa have made the voyage around the southern tip of Africa a popular alternative to using the Suez Canal.
canal
Noun

artificial waterway.

cargo
Noun

goods carried by a ship, plane, or other vehicle.

configuration
Noun

arrangement of parts of a whole.

fee
Noun

price or cost.

laden
Adjective

full or heavy with.

oil
Noun

fossil fuel formed from the remains of marine plants and animals. Also known as petroleum or crude oil.

oil tanker
Noun

large ship used for transporting petroleum.

pipeline
Noun

series of pipes used to transport liquids or gases over long distances.

piracy
Noun

illegal use or reproduction of a copyrighted work of art or intellectual property.

Noun

place on a body of water where ships can tie up or dock and load and unload cargo.

traffic
Noun

movement of many things, often vehicles, in a specific area.

vessel
Noun

craft for traveling on water, usually larger than a rowboat or skiff.

voyage
Noun

long journey or trip.