The aircraft carrier USS AMERICA transits through the Suez Canal in 1981.

Photograph courtesy of Wikimedia.

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  • 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.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    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.

    port Noun

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

    Encyclopedic Entry: port
    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.