The Suez Canal is an artificial waterway in Egypt that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened on November 17,1869, it allows water transport between Europe and Asia without navigating around Africa and its tempestuous Cape of Good Hope.
When first built, the canal was 102 miles long and 26 feet deep. After multiple enlargements, the canal has grown to more than 120 miles long, almost 80 feet deep, and nearly 700 feet wide. The original excavation took about a decade, and approximately 30,000 people were working on the canal at any given time. The canal has no locks because the terrain is flat, and the minor sea level differences on each end do not affect shipping.
Suezmax is a naval architecture term for the largest ship measurements capable of transiting the Suez Canal, and is almost exclusively used in reference to tankers. Since the canal has no locks, the only serious limiting factors are maximum depth below waterline, and height due to the Suez Canal Bridge.The canal allows passage of ships up to 66 feet draft or 240,000 deadweight tons and up to a maximum height of 223 feet above water level. By 1955 approximately two-thirds of Europe's oil passed through the canal, and about 7.5% of world sea trade is carried through it today. In 2008, a total of 21,415 vessels passed through the canal.
To learn about other historic civil engineering feats, please visit the History and Heritage section of the ASCE website.