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Before the Ever Given: A look at the crises that closed Suez Canal

Here’s a look at some major incidents that have closed or threatened the bottleneck in the past.

March 29, 2021 / 12:29 PM IST
(Image: AP)
Since it opened in 1869, Egypt’s Suez Canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. It is one of the world’s great maritime shortcuts, connecting the Red and Mediterranean Seas through a narrow passage that chops thousands of miles off most east-west shipping voyages. Now, a different sort of crisis has thrust the Suez Canal into the global spotlight. A skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway last week. While its shutdown this week is historic, the canal is no stranger to disruption. Here’s a look at some major incidents that have closed or threatened the bottleneck in the past. (Image: AP)
FILE - In this June 18, 1956 file photo, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser waves as he moves through Port Said, Egypt, during a ceremony in which Egypt formally took over control of the Suez Canal from Britain. Since it opened in 1869, the canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. Now, a skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway since Tuesday, March 23, 2021 . The obstruction has halted canal traffic, valued at over $9 billion a day. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this June 18, 1956 file photo, Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser waves as he moves through Port Said, Egypt. In 1956, Egypt’s then-President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal. The seizure, celebrated by Egyptians as a defiant break from European imperialism, prompted Britain, France, and Israel to intervene militarily and occupy the canal zone. As fighting raged, sunken ships sealed off the canal for months. The United States and the Soviet Union, which openly opposed the invasion, ultimately forced the three countries to withdraw. Egypt was able to reopen the canal in March 1957, in what was seen across the region as a victory for pan-Arab nationalism. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 1956 file photo, fuel installations on the Suez Canal burn after an attack by aircraft of the Sea Venom Squadron from HMS Eagle as Britain, France and Israel intervened militarily and occupied the canal zone following Egypt nationalizing the canal. Since it opened in 1869, the canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. Now, a skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway since Tuesday, March 23, 2021 . The obstruction has halted canal traffic, valued at over $9 billion a day. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 11, 1956 file photo, fuel installations on the Suez Canal burn after an attack by aircraft of the Sea Venom Squadron from HMS Eagle as Britain, France, and Israel intervened militarily and occupied the canal zone following Egypt nationalizing the canal. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 19, 1956 file photo, scuttled ships at the entrance to the Suez Canal, at Port Said, as seen from over Port Fuad, Egypt. Since it opened in 1869, the canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. Now, a skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway since Tuesday, March 23, 2021 . The obstruction has halted canal traffic, valued at over $9 billion a day. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 19, 1956 file photo, scuttled ships at the entrance to the Suez Canal, at Port Said, as seen from over Port Fuad, Egypt. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this June 1967 file photo, Israeli soldiers stand at a destroyed bridge looking over the Egyptian bank of the Suez Canal. Since it opened in 1869, the canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. Now, a skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway since Tuesday, March 23, 2021 . The obstruction has halted canal traffic, valued at over $9 billion a day. (AP Photo/Mario Torrisi, File)
FILE - In this June 1967 file photo, Israeli soldiers stand at a destroyed bridge looking over the Egyptian bank of the Suez Canal. At the outbreak of the 1967 Mideast war, Egypt closed the canal to international shipping as Israeli forces struck again at the canal zone and entrenched in the Sinai Peninsula. This time, the canal was shut for eight years. Accumulating mines, bombshells, and sunken vessels, the waterway became a fortified trench in the war. It was only after peace talks with Israel that Nasser's successor, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, reopened the waterway in 1975. During the closure, over a dozen cargo ships were stranded midway through the canal in the Great Bitter Lake. The closed canal cost the world $1.7 billion in lost trade and increased shipping costs and Egypt $250 million in lost toll revenues annually, according to a U.N. study. The shutdown forced Europe-bound vessels to avoid Suez by rounding the southern tip of Africa, encouraging shippers to find economies of scale by developing increasingly large supertankers — a trend that, ironically, led ships to swell to the size of the stranded Ever Given. (AP Photo/Mario Torrisi, File)
FILE - In this June 5, 1975 file photo, thousands throng the docks and quays of Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal in Port Said, Egypt, as the first passenger ships let off steam and pontoon ramps are kicked away as they get ready for first passage through the canal in years. Since it opened in 1869, the canal has been a source of national pride and a focus of international conflict. Now, a skyscraper-sized container ship called the Ever Given got stuck sideways across the waterway since Tuesday, March 23, 2021 . The obstruction has halted canal traffic, valued at over $9 billion a day. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)
FILE - In this June 5, 1975 file photo, thousands throng the docks and quays of Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal in Port Said, Egypt, as the first passenger ships let off steam and pontoon ramps are kicked away as they get ready for first passage through the canal in years. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)
Source: AP
The giant 400-meter-long (quarter-mile-long) Ever Given, a Panama-flagged, Japanese-owned ship that hauls cargo between Asia and Europe, got stuck last Tuesday in a single-lane stretch of the canal. The ship's operators insist it crashed into the bank because of strong winds and a sandstorm, but the circumstances of the grounding remain unclear. Egyptian authorities suggested Saturday that human error may have been a factor. The stranded container ship blocking the Suez Canal was re-floated on March 29. (Source: AP)
first published: Mar 29, 2021 12:29 pm

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