Notícia

Canal de Suez

Canal de Suez

O Canal de Suez é uma via navegável artificial que conecta o Mar Mediterrâneo ao Oceano Índico através do Mar Vermelho. Permite uma rota mais direta para o transporte marítimo entre a Europa e a Ásia, permitindo efetivamente a passagem do Atlântico Norte para o Oceano Índico sem ter de circunavegar o continente africano. A hidrovia é vital para o comércio internacional e, como resultado, tem estado no centro do conflito desde sua inauguração em 1869.

Onde fica o Canal de Suez?

O Canal de Suez se estende por 120 milhas de Port Said, no Mar Mediterrâneo, no Egito, em direção ao sul até a cidade de Suez (localizada na costa norte do Golfo de Suez). O canal separa a maior parte do Egito da Península do Sinai. A construção demorou 10 anos e foi inaugurada oficialmente em 17 de novembro de 1869.

Pertencente e operado pela Autoridade do Canal de Suez, o uso do Canal de Suez se destina a ser aberto a navios de todos os países, seja para fins de comércio ou guerra - embora nem sempre tenha sido o caso.

Construção do Canal de Suez

O interesse por uma rota marítima que liga o Mar Mediterrâneo ao Mar Vermelho remonta aos tempos antigos. Uma série de pequenos canais conectando o Rio Nilo (e, portanto, por extensão, o Mediterrâneo) ao Mar Vermelho estavam em uso já em 2000 a.C.

No entanto, uma conexão direta entre o Mediterrâneo e o Mar Vermelho foi considerada impossível devido à preocupação de que eles estivessem em níveis distintos de altitude.

Portanto, várias rotas terrestres - usando veículos puxados por cavalos e, mais tarde, trens - foram empregadas, principalmente pela Grã-Bretanha, que conduzia um comércio significativo com suas colônias na Índia e no Paquistão atuais.

Linant de Bellefonds

A ideia de um grande canal proporcionando uma rota direta entre os dois corpos d'água foi discutida pela primeira vez na década de 1830, graças ao trabalho do explorador e engenheiro francês Linant de Bellefonds, que se especializou no Egito.

Bellefonds fez um levantamento do istmo de Suez e confirmou que os mares Mediterrâneo e Vermelho estavam, ao contrário da crença popular, no mesmo nível de altitude. Isso significava que um canal sem eclusas poderia ser construído, tornando a construção significativamente mais fácil.

Na década de 1850, vendo uma oportunidade para o Egito e o Império Otomano, que governava o país na época, Khedive Said Pasha (que supervisionava o Egito e o Sudão para os otomanos) concedeu ao diplomata francês Ferdinand de Lesseps permissão para criar uma empresa de construção um canal. Essa empresa acabou se tornando conhecida como Suez Canal Company, e recebeu um contrato de arrendamento de 99 anos sobre a hidrovia e a área circundante.

A primeira ação de Lesseps foi criar o Commission Internationale pour le percement de l’isthme des Suez—Ou Comissão Internacional para a Perfuração do Istmo de Suez. A comissão era composta por 13 especialistas de sete países, incluindo, principalmente, Alois Negrelli, um importante engenheiro civil.

Negrelli baseou-se efetivamente no trabalho de Bellefonds e em seu levantamento original da região e assumiu um papel de liderança no desenvolvimento dos planos arquitetônicos para o Canal de Suez. O relatório final da comissão foi concluído em 1856; dois anos depois, a Suez Canal Company foi formalmente estabelecida.

Construção do Canal de Suez

A construção começou na extremidade norte do canal em Port Said, no início de 1859. O trabalho de escavação durou 10 anos e cerca de 1,5 milhão de pessoas trabalharam no projeto.

Infelizmente, apesar das objeções de muitos investidores britânicos, franceses e americanos no canal, muitos deles eram trabalhadores escravos, e acredita-se que dezenas de milhares morreram enquanto trabalhavam no Suez, de cólera e outras causas.

A turbulência política na região impactou negativamente a construção do canal. O Egito era governado pela Grã-Bretanha e pela França na época, e houve várias rebeliões contra o domínio colonial.

Isso, junto com as limitações da tecnologia de construção na época, fez com que os custos totais de construção do Canal de Suez disparassem para US $ 100 milhões, mais que o dobro da estimativa original.

Canal de Suez é inaugurado

Ismail Pasha, quediva do Egito e do Sudão, abriu formalmente o Canal de Suez em 17 de novembro de 1869.

Oficialmente, o primeiro navio a navegar pelo canal foi o iate imperial da imperatriz francesa Eugenie, o L'Aigle, seguido pelo transatlântico britânico Delta.

No entanto, o HMS Newport, um navio da marinha britânica, foi na verdade o primeiro a entrar na hidrovia, com seu capitão navegando até a frente da linha sob o manto da escuridão na noite anterior à abertura cerimonial. O capitão, George Nares, foi oficialmente repreendido pelo feito, mas também secretamente elogiado pelo governo britânico por seus esforços em promover os interesses do país na região.

o S.S. Dido, foi o primeiro navio a passar pelo Canal de Suez de Sul para Norte.

Pelo menos inicialmente, apenas os navios a vapor eram capazes de usar o canal, já que os veleiros ainda tinham dificuldade para navegar pelo estreito canal devido aos ventos difíceis da região.

Embora o tráfego tenha sido menor do que o esperado durante os primeiros dois anos de operação do canal, a hidrovia teve um impacto profundo no comércio mundial e desempenhou um papel fundamental na colonização da África pelas potências europeias. Ainda assim, os proprietários do Suez passaram por problemas financeiros, e Ismail Pasha e outros foram forçados a vender suas ações para a Grã-Bretanha em 1875.

A França, no entanto, ainda era o acionista majoritário do canal.

Canal de Suez durante a guerra

Em 1888, a Convenção de Constantinopla decretou que o Canal de Suez operaria como uma zona neutra, sob a proteção dos britânicos, que já haviam assumido o controle da região circundante, incluindo o Egito e o Sudão.

Os britânicos defenderam o canal do ataque do Império Otomano em 1915 durante a Primeira Guerra Mundial.

O Tratado Anglo-Egípcio de 1936 reafirmou o controle da Grã-Bretanha sobre a importante via navegável, que se tornou vital durante a Segunda Guerra Mundial, quando as potências do Eixo da Itália e da Alemanha tentaram capturá-la. Apesar do status supostamente neutro do canal, os navios do Eixo foram proibidos de acessá-lo durante grande parte da guerra.

Após o fim da Segunda Guerra Mundial, em 1951, o Egito retirou-se do Tratado Anglo-Egípcio.

Gamal Abdel Nasser

Após anos de negociação, os britânicos retiraram suas tropas do Canal de Suez em 1956, efetivamente entregando o controle ao governo egípcio, sob a liderança do presidente Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser rapidamente se mudou para nacionalizar a operação do canal, e fez isso transferindo a propriedade para a Autoridade do Canal de Suez, uma agência quase governamental, em julho de 1956.

Tanto a Grã-Bretanha quanto os Estados Unidos ficaram irritados com esse movimento, bem como com os esforços do governo egípcio para estabelecer relações com a União Soviética na época. Inicialmente, eles retiraram o apoio financeiro prometido para as melhorias planejadas para o Suez, incluindo a construção da Barragem de Aswan.

No entanto, eles, juntamente com outras potências europeias, ficaram ainda mais furiosos com a decisão do governo de Nasser de fechar o Estreito de Tiran, um corpo de água que liga Israel ao Mar Vermelho, a todos os navios israelenses.

Suez Crisis

Em resposta, em outubro de 1956, tropas da Grã-Bretanha, França e Israel ameaçaram invadir o Egito, levando à chamada Crise de Suez.

Temendo uma escalada do conflito, o Secretário de Estado canadense para Assuntos Externos, Lester B. Pearson, recomendou o estabelecimento de uma força de manutenção da paz das Nações Unidas, a primeira de seu tipo, para proteger o canal e garantir o acesso a todos. A ONU ratificou a proposta de Pearson em 4 de novembro de 1956.

Embora a Suez Canal Company continuasse a operar o canal, a força da ONU manteve o acesso e a paz na vizinha Península do Sinai. Esta não foi a última vez que o Canal de Suez teve um papel central no conflito internacional.

Guerra Árabe-Israelense

No início da Guerra dos Seis Dias em 1967, Nasser ordenou que as forças de manutenção da paz da ONU saíssem da Península do Sinai.

Israel imediatamente enviou tropas para a região e, por fim, assumiu o controle da margem leste do Canal de Suez. Não querendo que os navios israelenses tivessem acesso à hidrovia, Nasser impôs um bloqueio a todo o tráfego marítimo.

Notavelmente, 15 navios de carga que já haviam entrado no canal no momento da implementação do bloqueio permaneceram presos lá por anos.

Os caça-minas americanos e britânicos acabaram por limpar o Suez e torná-lo mais uma vez seguro para passagem. O novo presidente egípcio, Anwar Sadat, reabriu o canal em 1975 e liderou um comboio de navios rumo ao norte, para Port Said.

No entanto, as tropas israelenses permaneceram na Península do Sinai até 1981, quando, como parte do Tratado de Paz Egito-Israel de 1979, a chamada Força Multinacional e Observadores foi posicionada lá para manter a ordem e proteger o canal. Eles permanecem no local até hoje.

Canal de Suez Hoje

Hoje, uma média de 50 navios navegam diariamente no canal, transportando mais de 300 milhões de toneladas de mercadorias por ano.

Em 2014, o governo egípcio supervisionou um projeto de expansão de US $ 8 bilhões que alargou o Suez de 61 metros para 312 metros para uma distância de 21 milhas. O projeto levou um ano para ser concluído e, como resultado, o canal pode acomodar navios que passem em ambas as direções simultaneamente.

Apesar da rota alargada, em março de 2021, um enorme navio porta-contêineres vindo da China ficou preso no canal e bloqueou mais de 100 navios em cada extremidade da vital artéria de navegação. O incidente interrompeu o comércio global por quase uma semana.

Fontes

História do Canal. Autoridade do Canal de Suez.
The Suez Crisis, 1956. Escritório do Historiador. Departamento de Estado dos EUA.
Uma breve história do Canal de Suez. Marine Insight.


Suez Canal Company

o Companhia Universal do Canal Marítimo de Suez [1] (francês: Compagnie universelle du canal marítimo de Suez) foi a concessionária que construiu o Canal de Suez entre 1859 e 1869 e o operou até a Crise de Suez ocorrida em 1956. Foi formada por Ferdinand de Lesseps em 1858 e operou o canal por muitos anos depois. Inicialmente, os investidores privados franceses eram a maioria dos acionistas, com o Egito também tendo uma participação significativa.

Quando Isma'il Pasha se tornou Wāli do Egito e do Sudão em 1863, ele se recusou a aderir a porções das concessões à companhia do Canal feitas por seu predecessor Said. O problema foi encaminhado em 1864 para a arbitragem de Napoleão III, que concedeu £ 3.800.000 (equivalente a £ 373 milhões em 2019) [2] para a empresa como compensação pelas perdas que incorreriam pelas mudanças na concessão original exigida por Ismail . Durante 1875, uma crise financeira forçou Isma'il a vender suas ações ao governo do Reino Unido por apenas £ 3.976.582 [3] (equivalente a £ 401 milhões em 2019). [2]

A empresa operou o canal até sua nacionalização pelo presidente egípcio Gamal Abdel Nasser em 1956, o que levou à crise de Suez. Em 1962, o Egito fez seus pagamentos finais pelo canal à Companhia do Canal de Suez e assumiu o controle total do Canal de Suez. [4] Hoje, o canal pertence e é operado pela Autoridade do Canal de Suez.

Em 1997, a empresa se fundiu com a Lyonnaise des Eaux para formar a Suez S.A., que mais tarde foi fundida com a Gaz de France em 22 de julho de 2008 para formar a GDF Suez, [5] que se tornou conhecida como Engie em abril de 2015.


Construção

Ilustração da dragagem do Canal de Suez em Port Said.

A ideia de construir o Canal de Suez remonta ao final do século 15, quando os líderes venezianos pensaram em construir um canal entre o Nilo e o Mar Vermelho, mas a conquista do Egito pelo Império Otomano em 1517 pôs fim ao plano dos venezianos. No século 16, os otomanos pensaram em cavar um canal que ligasse o Mediterrâneo ao Mar Vermelho e ligasse Constantinopla às rotas comerciais do Oceano Índico. No entanto, o projeto era muito caro para ser concluído. Em 1804, o imperador francês Napoleão Bonaparte também abandonou um projeto semelhante por causa dos fatores de custo.

Em 1958, o diplomata francês Ferdinand de Lesseps formou a Suez Canal Company para escavar um canal que conecta o Mediterrâneo ao Mar Vermelho. A construção do canal começou em 25 de abril de 1859 e foi concluída após dez anos. De acordo com várias fontes, pelo menos 30.000 pessoas trabalharam no local em determinado momento, e mais de 1,5 milhão de pessoas de diferentes nacionalidades estiveram envolvidas na construção. O Canal de Suez foi inaugurado oficialmente em 17 de novembro de 1869. Egito, França e Grã-Bretanha possuíram o canal em conjunto até 1956, quando foi nacionalizado pelo governo egípcio, levando à Crise de Suez.


"S ***!": Momento em que o navio ficou preso em Suez e mais detalhes revelados

O Ever Given, um dos maiores navios porta-contêineres do mundo, ficou preso no canal de Suez em março

O capitão Krishnan Kanthavel viu o sol nascer sobre o Mar Vermelho através de uma névoa empoeirada. Ventos de mais de 64 km / h, soprando do deserto egípcio, transformaram o céu em um amarelo anêmico. Do seu ponto de vista na ponte, era apenas possível ver os contornos escuros dos outros 19 navios ancorados na Baía de Suez, esperando sua vez de entrar no estreito canal que serpenteia para o interior em direção ao Mediterrâneo.

O navio porta-contêiner de Kanthavel estava programado para ser o 13º navio a viajar para o norte através do Canal de Suez em 23 de março de 2021. O dele era um dos maiores da fila. Foi também um dos mais novos e valiosos, apenas alguns anos fora do estaleiro. Sempre Dado, o nome pintado em letras maiúsculas na popa destacava-se em um branco nítido contra o casco verde-floresta. Logo após o amanhecer, uma pequena embarcação se aproximou, transportando os pilotos locais que guiariam o navio durante sua jornada de 12 horas entre os mares.

Transitar pelo Canal de Suez às vezes é enervante. O canal evita um desvio de três semanas ao redor da África, mas é estreito, com cerca de 200 metros (656 pés) de largura em algumas partes e apenas 24 metros de profundidade. Os navios modernos, ao contrário, são enormes e estão cada vez maiores. O Ever Given tem 400 metros da proa à popa e quase 60 metros de largura - a maior parte da largura de um quarteirão de Manhattan e quase tão longo quanto o Empire State Building é alto. A caminho da Malásia para a Holanda, foi carregado com cerca de 17.600 contêineres de cores vivas. Sua quilha estaria a apenas alguns metros do fundo do canal. Isso não deixava muito espaço para erros.

Depois de subir a bordo, os dois pilotos egípcios foram conduzidos até a ponte para encontrar o capitão, os oficiais e os timoneiros, todos indianos, como o restante da tripulação. De acordo com documentos apresentados semanas depois em um tribunal egípcio, houve uma disputa em algum momento sobre se o navio deveria entrar no canal, devido ao mau tempo - um debate que pode ter sido prejudicado pelo fato de que o inglês não foi o primeiro língua. Pelo menos quatro portos próximos já haviam fechado por causa da tempestade e, um dia antes, o capitão de um cargueiro de gás natural partindo do Catar decidira que havia rajadas de vento demais para atravessar Suez com segurança.

Como os aviões, os navios modernos carregam gravadores de dados de viagem, ou VDRs, dispositivos de caixa preta que capturam as conversas na ponte. A gravação completa do que aconteceu na ponte do Ever Given não foi divulgada pelo governo egípcio, então não está claro exatamente o que os pilotos e a tripulação disseram sobre as condições. Mas as pressões comerciais sobre o capitão Kanthavel, um marinheiro experiente de Tamil Nadu, teriam sido enormes. Seu navio transportava cerca de US $ 1 bilhão em carga, incluindo móveis da Ikea, tênis Nike, laptops Lenovo e 100 contêineres de um líquido inflamável não identificado.

Várias outras entidades corporativas também tinham interesse em levar os contêineres do Ever Given rapidamente para a Europa. Entre eles estava seu proprietário, Shoei Kisen Kaisha Ltd., uma empresa de transporte marítima controlada por uma rica família japonesa, e Evergreen Group, um conglomerado taiwanês que operava sob um contrato de fretamento de longo prazo. A tripulação, entretanto, trabalhou para Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, uma empresa alemã que fornece marinheiros para navios comerciais e supervisiona suas operações. O atraso de cada dia adicionaria dezenas de milhares de dólares em custos, se não mais.

Capitães veteranos dizem que muitas vezes não têm muita escolha sobre navegar até Suez em más condições. "Faça isso ou encontraremos outra pessoa que o faça", dizem às vezes. Mas os navios modernos possuem radar e sensores eletrônicos que tecnicamente permitem que o canal seja navegado mesmo com visibilidade zero. E Kanthavel, que um ex-colega descreve como um oficial calmo e confiante, tinha ampla experiência em navegar em Suez.

Da ponte, Kanthavel podia ver cerca de oitocentos metros à frente. Outras embarcações do comboio que seguia para o norte estavam em movimento, passando pelos guindastes altos na boca do canal. O capitão ainda poderia ter se recusado a prosseguir, mas com a liberação da agência que administra a hidrovia e com todos ansiosos para seguir em frente, ele seguiu em frente. O piloto egípcio líder se inclinou para o rádio e teve uma breve conversa em árabe entre rajadas de estática. Em seguida, ele instruiu a tripulação da ponte a avançar. Conforme os assentamentos espalhados ao redor do porto deram lugar ao deserto, o Ever Given cruzou com uma grande placa que dizia: "Bem-vindo ao Egito".

O Ever Given ficou preso no canal em ventos fortes em 23 de março.

Os pilotos de Suez são contratados pela Autoridade do Canal de Suez, que opera a rota desde que o governo egípcio assumiu o controle dela em 1956. Freqüentemente, ex-oficiais da marinha, os pilotos não dirigem fisicamente os navios em trânsito. Seu trabalho é dar instruções aos capitães e timoneiros, comunicar-se com o resto do comboio e a torre de controle da SCA e garantir que os navios passem com segurança, o que eles fazem em sua maioria.

Para alguns visitantes, porém, os encontros com o SCA podem ser uma fonte de estresse. Embora o capitão continue tecnicamente no comando, ele cede boa parte do controle a estranhos uniformizados, cujo profissionalismo e competência variam. Além dos pilotos, também poderão embarcar eletricistas da SCA, especialistas em amarração e inspetores de saúde. Cada um requer papelada, comida, espaço e supervisão. Eles também podem exigir caixas de cigarros, um problema que levou um grupo marítimo anticorrupção em 2015 a criar uma campanha "Diga não", instando as companhias marítimas a se recusarem a entregá-los. (A SCA negou no passado essas alegações.)

Chris Gillard navegou o canal cerca de uma vez por mês de 2008 a 2019 como oficial de seu antigo empregador, o gigante marítimo dinamarquês A.P. Moller-Maersk A / S. Entre os pilotos e os desafios de navegação, ele passou a temer a travessia. "Prefiro fazer uma colonoscopia do que passar pelo Suez", disse ele em uma entrevista. A situação melhorou nos últimos anos, mas a dinâmica ainda pode ser complicada.

Após alguns quilômetros de trânsito do Ever Given, o navio começou a mudar de maneira alarmante de bombordo para estibordo e vice-versa. Sua forma em bloco pode ter funcionado como uma vela gigantesca, golpeada pelo vento. Em resposta, de acordo com as evidências apresentadas em procedimentos legais, o piloto principal do SCA começou a latir instruções para o timoneiro indiano. O piloto gritou para virar à direita, depois à esquerda. O vasto casco do Ever Given demorou tanto para responder que, no momento em que começou a se mover, ele precisou corrigir o curso novamente. Quando o segundo piloto objetou, os dois discutiram. Eles podem ter trocado insultos em árabe. (O SCA não divulgou os nomes dos pilotos e nega que eles tenham sido os culpados pelo que se seguiu.)

O piloto líder deu então uma nova ordem: "Totalmente à frente". Isso levaria a velocidade do Ever Given a 13 nós, ou 15 mph, significativamente mais rápida do que o limite de velocidade recomendado do canal de cerca de 8 nós. O segundo piloto tentou cancelar o pedido e mais palavras raivosas foram trocadas. Kanthavel interveio, e o piloto líder respondeu ameaçando deixar o navio, de acordo com as evidências do tribunal.

O aumento na potência deveria ter fornecido ao Ever Given mais estabilidade em face do vendaval, mas também trouxe um novo fator em jogo. O princípio de Bernoulli, batizado em homenagem a um matemático suíço do século 18, afirma que a pressão de um fluido diminui quando sua velocidade aumenta. As centenas de milhares de toneladas de água do canal que o navio estava deslocando tiveram que se espremer pela estreita fenda entre o casco e a costa mais próxima. À medida que a água corria, a pressão teria diminuído, sugando o Sempre Dado para mais perto da margem. Quanto mais rápido for, maior será a atração. "Acelerar até certo ponto é eficaz, depois torna-se contra-efetivo", disse Gillard. "Você não estará seguindo em linha reta, não importa o que faça."

De repente, ficou claro que o Ever given iria quebrar. Embora nenhuma filmagem do incidente tenha sido tornada pública, os poucos segundos finais teriam se desenrolado com a lentidão horrível de um prédio em colapso - um objeto gigantesco se rendendo a forças invisíveis. De acordo com uma pessoa familiarizada com o áudio do VDR, o Capitão Kanthavel reagiu como qualquer pessoa na mesma situação. "Merda!" ele gritou.

Considere cada item a até 3 metros de você agora. Sapatos, móveis, brinquedos, canetas, telefones, computadores - se você mora na Europa ou na América do Norte, há uma grande chance de eles terem navegado pelo Canal de Suez. O canal é o elo essencial entre o Oriente e o Ocidente, dicotomia que se alojou no imaginário popular há séculos em parte pela dificuldade de passagem de um para o outro. Antes que ele existisse, os marinheiros tiveram que enfrentar piratas e tempestades violentas navegando ao redor do Cabo da Boa Esperança, enquanto os mercadores que viajavam em terra corriam o risco de roubo ou pior ao cruzarem o deserto.

A ideia de uma rota direta através do istmo de Suez foi descartada como uma fantasia até o século 19, quando foi adotada por um comerciante de vinhos francês travesti chamado Barthelemy-Prosper Enfantin. Um socialista utópico e um dos primeiros defensores da igualdade de gênero, Enfantin acreditava que o Oriente tinha uma essência feminina, enquanto o Ocidente era intrinsecamente masculino. O Egito, e especificamente Suez, poderia ser seu "leito nupcial", o local de uma reconciliação entre as grandes culturas do mundo.

As ideias de Enfantin chegaram a Ferdinand de Lesseps, um diplomata francês servindo no Cairo, que se uniu à causa. Eventualmente, Lesseps fundou uma entidade chamada Suez Canal Company e persuadiu o governante egípcio Sa'id Pasha e o imperador Napoleão III da França a apoiar o projeto. O governo do Egito comprou 44% das ações, com investidores franceses de varejo adquirindo a maior parte do restante. Dezenas de milhares de camponeses egípcios começaram a cavar o canal manualmente, mais tarde auxiliados por máquinas importadas da Europa.

Em 1869, o milagre de 120 milhas no deserto foi concluído. Logo se tornou uma artéria comercial vital, especialmente para potências europeias que expandiam seus impérios coloniais na Ásia. Os egípcios viram poucos dos benefícios. A construção do canal foi financeiramente ruinosa para o país, que foi forçado a vender suas ações ao governo britânico para satisfazer os credores. Então, em 1882, a Grã-Bretanha usou um levante nacionalista como pretexto para enviar mais de 30.000 soldados ao Egito, transformando-o em um estado cliente e tomando o canal. Suez havia se tornado um ativo que as potências europeias não podiam perder.

A raiva com esse ato de agressão imperial cresceu e, em 1956, o líder egípcio Gamal Abdel Nasser nacionalizou a hidrovia. Uma tentativa anglo-francesa de retirá-lo com o apoio de Israel foi um fracasso humilhante, desmoronando depois que o presidente Dwight Eisenhower deixou claro que os EUA não tolerariam a recolonização de um pedaço do Oriente Médio. A partir de então, o canal permaneceria nas mãos dos egípcios. Em 2015, o presidente Abdel Fattah El-Sisi abriu uma expansão de US $ 8,5 bilhões, aumentando a capacidade e reduzindo os tempos de trânsito. Cartazes no Cairo declaravam que era "o presente do Egito para o mundo".

Hoje, 19.000 navios por ano passam pelo canal, carregados com mais de um bilhão de toneladas de mercadorias. Com pedágios que podem chegar a US $ 1 milhão para os maiores navios, o SCA traz ao Egito cerca de US $ 5 bilhões anualmente. O governo do país está compreensivelmente orgulhoso de seu papel central no comércio marítimo. Também é sensível qualquer sugestão de que não seja o guardião ideal para um dos ativos mais críticos da economia mundial.

No início de 23 de março, o capitão Mohamed Elsayed Hassanin estava apenas começando seu turno na torre de controle no topo da sede da SCA em Ismailia, cerca de 50 milhas ao norte da posição do Ever Given. Enquanto os pilotos comunicavam pelo rádio que o navio nº 13 do comboio rumo ao norte havia encalhado, os resultados, capturados pelas câmeras CCTV que alinham a hidrovia, estavam sendo exibidos em um monitor piscando em frente ao posto de comando de Elsayed. Ninguém na torre de controle jamais vira algo assim: a nave estava paralisada na diagonal do canal. Quando a câmera deu um zoom, Elsayed pôde ver a figura desamparada de Kanthavel em pé na ponte do Sempre Dado.

Ex-capitão da Marinha, Elsayed é um homem severo que leva a sério seu trabalho como piloto-chefe. Ele havia sido promovido ao cargo dois anos antes, após quase 40 anos de experiência marítima e uma década na SCA. Ele tem feições suaves, com linhas profundas ao redor dos olhos, e veste um uniforme branco bem passado com dragonas pretas e douradas, impecáveis ​​até os sapatos brancos.

Elsayed supervisiona quatro comboios diariamente, dois do sul e dois do norte. Parte de seu trabalho é coreografia náutica. Mais da metade do canal é estreito demais para que navios grandes passem uns pelos outros com segurança. É por isso que os navios viajam em comboios, esperando em um dos lagos ou canais laterais a passagem do grupo que segue na outra direção.

Elsayed na sala de controle da SCA.

Estava claro, disse Elsayed em uma entrevista, que o Ever Given estava preso em um dos piores pontos possíveis: uma seção de mão única do canal. Ele decidiu dar uma olhada por si mesmo. Depois de uma curta viagem de carro, ele embarcou em um pequeno barco e parou no navio de carga. Mesmo para alguém acostumado a enormes navios mercantes, a escala do Ever Dado era impressionante. Isso lembrou a Elsay de uma montanha de metal que se erguia do canal opalescente.

Abaixo da linha d'água, a proa bulbosa havia sido cravada como uma adaga nas rochas e na areia grossa. De alguma forma, a extremidade traseira também encalhou, alojando-se na margem oposta e deixando o navio em um ângulo de 45 graus com a costa. Nada poderia passar. A força do impacto também empurrou o arco para cima em seis metros. Os navios porta-contêineres não são projetados para ficar em um ângulo e, com a distribuição de peso do Ever given e apenas alguns metros de água sustentando a seção intermediária do navio, Elsayed pensou que havia uma possibilidade real de que ele se quebrasse ao meio.

Alguns rebocadores SCA já estavam no local e mergulhadores estavam na água verificando se havia danos no casco. Elsayed escalou uma escada para encontrar Kanthavel na ponte. O capitão estava visivelmente abalado e Elsayed tentou mantê-lo calmo. "Tudo será resolvido, inshallah", disse ele.

Ele perguntou a Kanthavel sobre o casco do Sempre Dado, o peso de sua carga e a quantidade de água em seus tanques de lastro. Se eles pudessem aliviar sua carga, a flutuabilidade extra poderia ajudar a levantá-lo da margem. Elsayed fez uma rápida aritmética mental. A relação entre tonelagem e flutuação foi de 201 toneladas por centímetro. Tirar a embarcação a um metro da água exigiria a remoção de mais de 20.000 toneladas de carga - um empreendimento enorme, mesmo se o SCA pudesse encontrar um guindaste alto o suficiente para alcançar os contêineres empilhados a mais de 50 metros acima da superfície.

Os dois rebocadores prenderam cabos ao Ever Dado e começaram a tentar soltá-lo, seus motores girando a água em espirais. O navio não se mexeu. Elsayed e seu chefe, o presidente da SCA, Osama Rabie, improvisaram um plano: eles executariam turnos de 12 horas, alternando entre escavadeiras na costa removendo o solo rochoso ao redor da proa e popa e rebocadores puxando com a maior potência possível. Os escavadores iriam descer durante a maré baixa. Os rebocadores explorariam a flutuabilidade adicional fornecida pela maré alta para rebocar. Para ajudar as escavadeiras, Elsayed convocou duas dragas SCA, barcaças flutuantes com dentes de metal giratórios que podiam ser baixados na água para mastigar o leito do canal. Eles deveriam chegar mais tarde naquele dia.

O primeiro a entrar em cena foi um único escavador amarelo, enviado por um empreiteiro que trabalhava nas proximidades. O motorista se aproximou nervosamente e começou a tirar colheradas de terra rochosa ao redor da proa. Ele estava apavorado, de acordo com uma entrevista que ele deu mais tarde ao Insider, que o gigante do metal pairando sobre ele pudesse tombar ou se mexer, esmagando-o. A cômica incompatibilidade de tamanho foi capturada pela equipe de comunicação da SCA, que tinha um fotógrafo à disposição para mostrar ao mundo que a autoridade estava fazendo todo o possível para abrir o canal novamente. A imagem da escavadeira solitária se tornou viral e, pela primeira vez em sua história, Suez foi uma passagem comercial vital e um meme.

Depois de relatar o acidente para Elsayed, os dois pilotos do SCA que estiveram na ponte do Ever Given se prepararam para desembarcar. Enquanto faziam isso, eles continuaram a brigar, de acordo com as evidências do processo contestado pelo SCA. "Essas embarcações não deveriam entrar", disse o piloto líder.

"Por que você deixou entrar?" seu colega respondeu.

Keith Svendsen estava dirigindo para o trabalho quando seu celular tocou. Um de seus colegas da APM Terminals, uma operadora de portos de contêineres com sede na Holanda, estava na linha com a notícia. Os detalhes eram escassos, mas havia algum tipo de problema em Suez. Os funcionários da Maersk, a empresa-mãe da APMT, estavam correndo para descobrir mais.

Se conglomerados de transporte como o Evergreen Group mantiverem o comércio marítimo em movimento, o APMT fornece uma ligação entre a terra e o mar, carregando e descarregando cerca de 32.000 navios por ano em Los Angeles, Mumbai, Gotemburgo e cerca de 70 outros locais, dia e noite, em um balé incessante de guindastes e caixas de metal. Também é co-proprietária do Tanjung Pelepas, o porto da Malásia que foi a última parada do Ever Given antes de Suez.

Quando Svendsen, um dinamarquês de fala franca que atua como diretor de operações da APMT, chegou ao seu escritório em Haia, ele não ficou muito preocupado. Os acidentes em Suez não eram incomuns e geralmente podiam ser resolvidos em poucas horas. Em três décadas como marítimo e executivo de navegação, ele lidou com mais do que algumas situações difíceis, algumas naquela mesma hidrovia. Eles geralmente se resolviam sozinhos.

No entanto, logo ficou claro para Svendsen que o acidente do Ever Given estava fora do comum e teria sérias repercussões. Assim como a fabricação de automóveis e a distribuição em supermercados, o transporte de cargas moderno é um negócio just-in-time, construído em torno da expectativa de que as mercadorias chegarão exatamente quando necessário. Antes que os contêineres fossem amplamente adotados na década de 1970, podia levar uma semana ou mais para esvaziar um grande navio e então reabastecê-lo. Hoje, os navios que transportam 10.000 contêineres ou mais podem ficar apenas horas em um determinado porto, descarregados por guindastes automatizados guiados por algoritmos de planejamento sofisticados. É um modelo eficiente, economizando armazenamento e estoque, mas frágil. É necessário apenas um único problema na cadeia de abastecimento para que tudo pare.

A embarcação foi libertada e o tráfego reiniciado na importante hidrovia após seis dias.

A prolonged closure of Suez risked a cascade of delays that would be felt in day-to-day commerce by millions of people, if not billions, for months. A vessel missing its scheduled arrival at APMT's terminal in New Jersey wouldn't just create a problem for the American companies waiting for its cargo. It would also mean a pileup of all the containers the ship was supposed to pick up for export. And, half a world away, factories in China or Malaysia counting on the same vessel to pick up their goods weeks later would need to find alternative options-which, given the disruption, might not exist.

APMT convened a crisis management team and started planning for various scenarios. What would happen to its ports if the canal was closed for 24 hours? Three days? Two weeks? Each increment of delay meant more vessels and cargo waiting to get through, unless they took a detour of thousands of nautical miles.

"Our job was to find out when we'd have a breaking point situation," Svendsen said in an interview. Two weeks would be a disaster for world trade, the team concluded. Anything less than a week would be manageable, if challenging. Svendsen could only hope that someone would pull the Ever Given clear before then.

Soon after the grounding, an engineer on a Maersk ship directly behind the Ever Given in the northbound convoy took a striking photograph of the vessel, side-on in the channel against the apocalyptic backdrop of a sandstorm. "Looks like we might be here for a little bit," she wrote, posting the image on Instagram.

It took about 24 hours for the SCA to release its first public statement, in which it said the Ever Given had lost control in bad weather. Evergreen, which declined to make any of its executives available for an interview, blamed a "suspected sudden strong wind," while one local maritime agent cited a "blackout." By the end of the day on March 24, 185 vessels were anchored nearby waiting to pass, carrying electronics, cement, water, millions of barrels of oil, and several thousand head of livestock. A shipping journal estimated that $10 billion worth of marine traffic per day was piling up.

Help was on its way from Europe: A team from SMIT Salvage, part of the Dutch marine conglomerate Royal Boskalis Westminster NV, had been hired by the Ever Given's owners in Japan. Salvors are like a 24/7 rescue service for the high seas. When a cruise liner starts to sink or an oil tanker is set alight, salvage crews rush to the scene to recover people, cargo, and equipment. It's one of the world's most adrenaline-soaked professions, and salvors employ all manner of Thunderbirds-style vehicles to get the job done, including helicopters and high-powered tugs with names like Sea Stallion and Nordic Giant. The business can be extremely lucrative. Under standard terms, crews receive a percentage of the value of whatever they rescue, potentially earning tens of millions of dollars. Fail, and they may get nothing.

After the SMIT team arrived on March 25, its members surveyed the Ever Given and then met Elsayed and his SCA colleagues on board. SMIT was there to advise, not take over, because Suez salvage operations fall under the SCA's jurisdiction. But the Dutch experts had a plan. If towing didn't work, they told Elsayed over the course of several meetings, it would be critical to lighten the ship. They'd already located a crane that was tall enough to reach the Ever Given's deck and capable of removing five containers an hour, load by painstaking load, until the vessel was 10,000 tons lighter. The crane could be there the following week. They just needed to charter a vessel to sail it in.

"Where are you going to put the containers?" Elsayed asked. A SMIT executive said they'd be offloaded to a smaller boat, which would go to a lake a few miles up the canal, to be transferred by yet another crane to yet another boat. Elsayed thought that would take at least three months. "We don't have time," he said. SMIT argued it was prudent to have a backup option. Eventually everyone agreed that they should keep dredging and towing until the giant crane arrived. If there was no movement by then, they would start taking boxes off.

SMIT put out a call to its partners and contractors, seeking the most powerful tugs they could find. The available ones included a sizable Italian-owned boat, the Carlo Magno, that was already en route to Egypt from the Red Sea, a few days away. The Alp Guard, a Dutch behemoth with 280 tons of pulling power, was also days out.

Elsayed was now living on the Ever Given. He and Rabie, who was staying on a dredger, spent much of their time on the radio, trying to keep their crews' spirits up. None of the SCA's sailors, engineers, and drivers were getting much sleep in the army tents that had been erected alongside the canal. After an exhausting day spent attaching cables, squeezing extra turns of power out of engines, or operating excavators, they might discover that the Ever Given had shifted only a meter. "This is a good sign," Elsayed would tell them. "It moved. Tomorrow it will be more."

Privately, he was terrified someone would get hurt. Elsayed also had a son working on one of the tugs. During the tug shifts, as many as five of the SCA's smaller craft would line up with their noses pushing against the Ever Given's side, trying to lever out the bow, while others pulled using cables. If the ship was suddenly dislodged, the smaller boats would be scattered like toys, risking a fatal accident. Then there was the risk that the Ever Given's bow could swing sideways and collide with the opposite bank, going straight from one grounding to another. Elsayed asked the ship's crew to run four 100-meter ropes out to land, where they could be anchored to stop the bow from moving out too far if it suddenly came free. He hoped that would be enough.

The Alp Guard roared into view on Sunday, March 28, almost six days after the Ever Given got stuck. There was a supermoon that night, a full moon unusually close to Earth, and its gravity would pull the Red Sea's tide to the highest it had been, or would be, for weeks. If the salvage crews were going to free the Ever Given without unloading it, this was the moment.

Then Elsayed proposed a novel idea: Instead of using the tugs only at high tide, they could also pull as the tide went out, hoping the current would help bring the Ever Given clear. It wasn't quite established salvage wisdom, which favors high water over tidal movement, but having battled the current for days, Elsayed and his team thought it might work.

The waters peaked at midnight. In the early hours of March 29, crewmen ran a cable from the ship to the Alp Guard. The tug was so powerful that they needed to coil the cable around four metal bollards set in the Ever Given's hull to prevent the anchor points from fracturing under the strain. Then the Alp Guard began to pull.

As dawn broke with the tide low, some of the tug captains realized they were no longer treading water. They were moving, very slowly. The back end of the Ever Given was drifting silently, inch by inch, away from the bank. The bow remained anchored in the sand, but the ship was only half stuck.

The second large tug, the Carlo Magno, arrived soon after and joined the Alp Guard in pulling from the rear. For hours, both tugs went flat out, whipping the water into white froth. But they were now working against the tide. They quit at lunchtime, having made no visible progress.

Then the SMIT team suggested the Ever Given take on 2,000 tons of ballast water in its stern, to lift its bow a few extra inches out of the silt. At about 2 p.m., Elsayed ordered all the tugs to try again. The tide had turned, becoming their ally. As he'd suspected, it was just enough.

Elsayed was on the Ever Given's bridge with Captain Kanthavel when the bow began to move, slowly at first, then all at once. The chief pilot could hear his tug captains yelling over the radio. As the ship drew away from the bank, one of the ropes binding the bow to the shore snapped, making a sound like a rifle shot. Then another. Then another. But the final one held, just long enough to stop the Ever Given from swinging across the channel. Elsayed asked Kanthavel to power up the engines and get the ship on a steady course so it could safely pass the salvage vessels ahead.

At the sight of the Ever Given moving under its own steam, the tug crews cheered and sounded their horns. On the bridge, the Indian officers whooped and embraced the SMIT salvors. Rabie called President Sisi to give him the good news.

Elsayed allowed himself the briefest moment of celebration. "Al-Hamdulillah," he murmured: All praise be to God. He posed reluctantly for some photographs, then got back to work. More than 400 ships were waiting to enter the canal.

The rest of the world swiftly lost interest in Suez once the Ever Given was freed. But for Elsayed and his pilots, the crisis was far from over. A significant proportion of international trade was riding on getting the backlogged vessels cleared. The SCA team worked day and night to move them through, transiting as many as 80 ships daily. Elsayed knew that having tired, overworked pilots on the job increased the risk of accidents, but felt he had little choice. A few days after the Ever Given was freed, an SCA boat sank and an employee died, illustrating the dangers of working in a marine chokepoint under severe strain.

Clearing the queue took six days. Afterward, Elsayed returned to his home in Alexandria to see his family, his first break in more than two weeks.

In The Hague, Svendsen, the APM Terminals executive, had been preparing for a huge wave of cargo, trying to boost capacity any way he could. The company had agreed with unions to extend working hours, deferred maintenance that would take cranes out of action, and cleared storage space to accommodate thousands of extra containers. Rushing cargo through would reduce APMT's already slim margin for error. "It's like a Tetris game where there's no blank space," Svendsen said.

The biggest problem emerged in Valencia, in southern Spain. The port's storage areas were already mostly full, piled with Spanish goods awaiting shipment. As containers came in, the volume of boxes became unmanageable. For a time, APMT had to activate a last-resort option, telling customers it could take in outgoing wares only just before they were scheduled to be loaded onto a ship. It would require a month of 24/7 shifts to bring the Valencia terminal back toward normal.

None of this received much attention in the international press. On social media, people bemoaned the loss of a welcome distraction from Covid-19. #PutItBack trended on Twitter. For most, the Suez Canal went back to being a largely invisible fulcrum of global trade. Within the shipping industry, though, after the euphoria of the rescue operation faded, the conversation turned to blame. Who was at fault for the crash? And who would pay for the physical and economic damage?

Captain Kanthavel and his crew were still on board the Ever Given, waiting for permission from Egyptian authorities to leave. The ship was anchored in the Great Bitter Lake-a desert salt bed for most of its history, until the canal's flow transformed it into a waiting area for marine traffic. Although Kanthavel hadn't spoken publicly, he had good reason to be anxious. After a major maritime accident, captains can expect a forensic examination of their actions. (Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, the company that provided the Ever Given's crew, said in a statement about Kanthavel that it "maintains absolute confidence in our Master, who has acted with professionalism and diligence throughout this period.")

On April 13, the SCA secured an Egyptian court order to "arrest," or seize, the Ever Given. The agency said it was seeking almost $1 billion from the ship's owner, Shoei Kisen Kaisha, which declined to comment for this article. In legal filings, the SCA argued that it had led a "unique and unprecedented operation" to free the ship and should be paid for its efforts, placing them at $272 million in expenses, a salvage bonus of $300 million, and a further $344 million in damages, including "moral losses." Until the debt was cleared, the Ever Given, its cargo, and its crew wouldn't be going anywhere.

On May 22, lawyers for the SCA and Shoei Kisen Kaisha gathered for a hearing in a crowded courtroom in Ismailia. A great deal was at stake, for a great number of parties. If the SCA's nearly $1 billion claim was ever paid, the liability would likely fall not to the Japanese company but to a collection of marine insurance conglomerates all over the world. Each would want a say in any settlement. There were also more than 17,000 cargo containers still stuck in the Great Bitter Lake. Nike and Lenovo had sent lawyers to Ismailia to monitor the proceedings.

That morning, the courthouse was abuzz with news that the Ever Given's owner had brought in a prominent attorney from Alexandria, Ashraf El Swefy, to stand up to the SCA's demands. The hearing got under way at 11 a.m. About a dozen lawyers jostled around a lectern in front of four judges, standing shoulder to shoulder as if waiting for a halftime pep talk. They took turns speaking, each following the same theatrical routine. First, an attorney would come up, state his name, and set out his client's case, building to a crescendo that involved shouting and waving his hands. Then everyone would talk at once, until the next lawyer found his way to the lectern and the process restarted.

The SCA's lawyer argued that the authority had saved the Ever Given almost singlehandedly. A billion dollars wasn't so much to ask. "If it were not for the refloating operation, we could have witnessed a catastrophe," he said in Arabic. The call to prayer drifted in through an open window as he spoke.

Soon it was El Swefy's turn. He was much older than the rest, hunched and with slightly trembling hands. Although the other attorneys towered over him, he had obvious gravitas.

No one could doubt the heroism of the SCA, El Swefy said slowly. But his praise was the prelude to a surprise attack. He explained that Shoei Kisen Kaisha had tried and failed to negotiate a settlement with the agency. In light of the SCA's resistance, he said, he had no choice but to submit recordings from the Ever Given's voyage data recorder into evidence. What they revealed was "chaos," he said. "Enter, no don't enter, the wind is high, the wind isn't high." The pilots got into an argument and were "calling each other names," in an exchange so heated one of them threatened to leave the ship, according to El Swefy. It was the first time anyone had publicly suggested the SCA's actions might have contributed to the accident.

El Swefy professed, as a proud Egyptian, to be making this argument reluctantly. "I didn't want to say this, and I'm ashamed to say it," he said. "This waterway belongs to all of us."

When he went outside afterward, reporters crowded him. He unhooked his face mask and patiently lit a cigarette with one hand, talking into a cellphone with the other. He declined to comment when approached by Bloomberg Businessweek. "I have a principle," he said in English. "All my statements are made in front of the court." Would the full transcript of the VDR audio be made public? "Not by me," he replied.

In the end, the judges kicked the case to another court. The SCA has reduced its claim to about $550 million, and as this story went to press, the Ever Given's insurers announced they'd reached an "agreement in principle" to resolve the dispute, without disclosing its terms. Even if that deal is finalized, a protracted legal battle may still take place beyond Egypt. In London's admiralty courts, where most big-money marine cases are decided, Shoei Kisen Kaisha has filed an application to limit its maximum liability from any lawsuits. The filing lists 16 entities that might seek damages, most of them the owners of other vessels stalled in Suez during the blockage. There could also be fights over financial responsibility among the owner, its insurers, and their reinsurers, who protect insurers against excess claims. The merry-go-round of litigation might drag on for years, to the delight of London's legal industry and probably no one else.

Captain Kanthavel and his crew have now been floating in the Great Bitter Lake for about three months. According to the International Transport Workers' Federation, a coalition of unions, they are still receiving their pay and are amply provisioned. Nine have been allowed to return to India. Seafarers' groups are nonetheless anxious about their welfare at one point, the Indian maritime union said it was concerned they could be "held to ransom," becoming bargaining chips in negotiations that had nothing to do with them. The potential settlement is, therefore, excellent news for the crew. Once it's complete, they and the vessel should be able to leave.

In a meeting with Businessweek at the SCA's headquarters in May, Elsayed reflected on his role in this peculiar moment of nautical history. In the navy, he'd studied Operation Badr, an ingenious plan to move Egyptian forces across Suez in just six hours, allowing them to surprise Israeli troops and start the 1973 Yom Kippur War. He hadn't quite matched that pace, but the SCA had managed to refloat the Ever Given in six days. "It's the same," he said, laughing.

Night had fallen by the time Elsayed offered to lead his visitors on a tour of the SCA control tower. Outside, the canal was a dark expanse, fringed by twinkling lights along the shore. It was empty: The next convoy wasn't due to depart for a few more hours. Above the CCTV feeds, a digital map of the entire route was spread across 10 large monitors. Elsayed pointed to a yellow blob in the Great Bitter Lake, motionless on the screen, and said, "See the Ever Given?"

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)


Suez Canal Crisis: History, significance of the waterway

Suez Canal, an artificial waterway, has been blocked for a nearly week now after a giant cargo ship MV Ever Given got stuck, blocking hundred of ships and sending the world of maritime commerce into a frenzy. The canal, which was opened almost 150 years ago, is a vital international shipping passage for the world.

Here is all you need to know about the history and significance of the Suez Canal waterway.

Where is Suez Canal Located and who built it?

Suez Canal is a man-made sea-level waterway situated in Egypt, connecting the Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via Suez, a city in Egypt on the Red Sea.

The Ottoman Empire appointed ruler Said Pasha, which ruled and governed the large areas of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and North Africa for more than 600 years, granted permission to French diplomat and engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps in the mid-18th century to build the canal. The construction began in early 1859 at the northernmost Port Said end of the canal and took 10 years to build the canal with an estimated 1.5 million people working on the project.

It was first opened in 1869, at that time it was 164 kilometers long and eight meters deep. However, it went through regular expansions and modernisation to accommodate a large number of ships and to allow navigation at night as well. A major expansion took place in 2015 which made the waterway 193.30 kilometers long and 24 meters deep.

What is the significance of the Suez Canal?

Suez Canal is the world’s longest canal without locks and its importance lies in its strategic location. Apart from connecting various bodies of water at differing altitudes, it is the only place that directly connects the waters of Europe with the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Asia-Pacific region. As there are no locks to interrupt, the transit time is about 13 hours to 15 hours and is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.

For example, the distance between the ports of the Gulf and London become almost half by going through the Suez in comparison to the alternate route via the southern tip of Africa, which is expensive and extends the journey time.

Around 50 ships on average used the 193-kilometer long canal daily in 2019. The authorities believe that the traffic is expected to double by 2023.

How many times has the Canal been closed?

According to the Suez Canal Authority, which maintains and operates the waterway, the Suez Canal has closed five times since it opened for navigation in 1869. The first time it was closed was back in 1956 when the Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in an effort to go against European colonial domination. The escalated tensions between Britain, France, and Israel, famously known as the Suez Crisis, led to the canal's closure for months.

The second time Suez Canal was blocked when Egypt and Israel entered into a war in 1967. The tensions between the two nations forced the Suez Canal to remain blocked for almost eight years. It was opened in 1975 after Egypt and Israel signed a diplomatic agreement.

Since then, Suez Canal has been blocked three times for various accidental groundings of vessels. In 2004, the Tropic Brilliance, an oil tanker, got lodged in the waterway leading to three days halt. In 2006, the Okal King Dor got stuck in the waterway leading to a temporary blockage in the canal. Later in 2017, the waterway was again disturbed after the OOCL Japan ship reported a malfunction in the steering gear causing a blockage of the canal.

The fact that one mishap could make the world’s maritime commerce come to halt tells how Suez Canal is the key to the global supply chain. The colossal giant ship, which is currently blocking the waterway, has stopped 10 per cent of global maritime commercial traffic. So, if the Ever Given ship remains there for a prolonged duration, the incident could send tremours in the global trade.

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1956: Suez and the end of empire

The Suez crisis is often portrayed as Britain's last fling of the imperial dice. In 1956, the globe was indeed still circled by British possessions and dependencies, from the Caribbean in the west to Singapore, Malaya and Hong Kong in the east. Much of the African map was still imperial pink.

In reality, though, the sun had long since begun to sink over the British empire. The greatest possession of them all, the Indian subcontinent, had taken its freedom. Nationalist movements were flourishing in most of the rest, patronised by Soviet Russia and encouraged by the United States in its self-appointed role as leader of the free world. Britain itself was only beginning to emerge from postwar austerity, its public finances crushed by an accumulation of war debt.

Still, there were powerful figures in the "establishment" - a phrase coined in the early 1950s - who could not accept that Britain was no longer a first-rate power. Their case, in the context of the times, was persuasive: we had nuclear arms, a permanent seat on the UN security council, and military forces in both hemispheres. We remained a trading nation, with a vital interest in the global free passage of goods.

But there was another, darker, motive for intervention in Egypt: the sense of moral and military superiority which had accreted in the centuries of imperial expansion. Though it may now seem quaint and self-serving, there was a widespread and genuine feeling that Britain had responsibilities in its diminishing empire, to protect its peoples from communism and other forms of demagoguery.

Much more potently, there was ingrained racism. When the revolutionaries in Cairo dared to suggest that they would take charge of the Suez canal, the naked prejudice of the imperial era bubbled to the surface. The Egyptians, after all, were among the original targets of the epithet, "westernised (or wily) oriental gentlemen. They were the Wogs.

King Farouk, the ruler of Egypt, was forced into exile in mid-1952. A year later, a group of army officers formally took over the government which they already controlled. The titular head of the junta was General Mohammed Neguib. The real power behind the new throne was an ambitious and visionary young colonel who dreamed of reasserting the dignity and freedom of the Arab nation, with Egypt at the heart of the renaissance. His name was Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Nasser's first target was the continued British military presence in the Suez canal zone. A source of bitter resentment among many Egyptians, that presence was a symbol of British imperial dominance since the 1880s. In 1954, having established himself as uncontested leader of Egypt, Nasser negotiated a new treaty, under which British forces would leave within 20 months.

At first, the largely peaceful transition of power in Egypt was little noticed in a world beset by turmoil and revolution. The cold war was at its height. Communism was entrenched throughout eastern Europe the French were being chased out of Indo-China and were engaged in a vicious civil war in Algeria the infant state of Israel had fought off the combined might of six Arab armies, and Britain was trying to hold down insurgents in Cyprus, Kenya and Malaya.

British politics, too, was in a state of flux, with a new generation of leaders emerging to preside over belated postwar prosperity. But when Winston Churchill resigned as prime minister in 1955, at the age of 80, he was succeeded by the last of the old guard: Anthony Eden.

After a lifetime at the cutting edge of British statesmanship, Eden was a curiously inadequate man. He had the vanity that often accompanies good looks, and the querulous temper that goes with innate weakness. He had been foreign secretary throughout the war and again, under the old imperialist Churchill, from 1951 to 55. For all his experience, he never absorbed the simple postwar truth: that the world had changed forever.

In July 1956, the last British soldiers pulled out of the canal zone. On July 26, Nasser abruptly announced the nationalisation of the Suez Canal Company. Eden was scandalised and, riding a wave of popular indignation, prepared a grotesquely disproportionate response: full scale invasion.

Nasser's nationalisation of the canal was followed by intensive diplomatic activity, ostensibly aimed at establishing some kind of international control of the strategically vital waterway. It turned out to be a smokescreen for military preparations.

In September, Nasser made a defiant speech rejecting the idea of international supervision of an Egyptian national asset. By then, the die was cast.

British and French troops, spearheaded by airborne forces, invaded the canal zone on October 31. Their governments told an outraged world that they had to invade, to separate Egyptian and Israeli forces, and thus protect the freedom of navigation on the canal. The reality was that the British and French, in top secret negotiations with Israel had forged an agreement for joint military operations. Israel, in fact, had the most legitimate grievance of the three invaders, for since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, Egypt had denied passage through the canal to any Israeli-flagged or Israel-bound ships.

Israeli forces swept into the Sinai desert on September 29, two days before the Anglo-French invasion, and raced towards the canal. (One column was headed by a young brigade commander who would go on to become prime minister: Ariel Sharon). In less than seven days, the entire Sinai peninsula was in Israeli hands.

The Anglo-French invasion was a good deal more ignominious. Just eight days after the first airborne lands, the operation was halted under a ceasefire ostensibly ordered by the United Nations, but in fact dictated by the Americans. The Egyptian air force had been destroyed and its army mauled - though it put up spirited resistance both in the canal zone and in Sinai. There is little doubt that the invading allies, who had overwhelming military advantage, could have gone on to take undisputed control of the canal zone - albeit at a cruel cost.

The greatest irony of the operation was that it was totally counterproductive. Far from bolstering Anglo-French interests, it had badly undermined the political and military prestige of both countries. And far from ensuring international freedom of seaborne passage, it had done just the opposite: under Nasser's orders, 47 ships were scuttled in the waterway. The Suez canal was totally blocked.

The diplomatic crisis

Though Eden scarcely seemed to appreciate it, Britain was simply no longer capable of mounting a solo imperial adventure. In the Suez operation, British soldiers fought alongside French ones. More importantly, both fading European powers were allied with the youngest but already most potent force in the Middle East: Israel.

But it wasn't Britain's military allies which mattered in the final analysis it was her political foes. They most obviously included the Soviet Union and its allies, who were given a glorious opportunity to attack western imperialism (and deflect world attention from their own brutality in crushing the simultaneous Hungarian uprising).

Much more telling than Soviet condemnation was the disapproval of the Eisenhower administration in the USA. Washington was appalled by the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of the canal zone and the Sinai. The action threatened to destabilise the strategically vital region, and strengthen Soviet links with liberation movements around the world. It raised global tensions in an age dominated by the nuclear arms race and recurring superpower crises. More viscerally, it was viewed with distaste as a nakedly imperial exercise in a post-imperial age.

Eden, a master of self-delusion, thought he had received a nod and wink of approval for the invasion from John Foster Dulles, the US secretary of state. He should have checked with Dwight D Eisenhower, who was enraged by the action. He forced through the UN resolution imposing a ceasefire, and made it clear that in this matter at any rate, Britain would have no 'special relationship' with the USA.

The final straw for Eden came when the Treasury told the government that sterling, under sustained attack over the crisis, needed urgent US support to the tune of a billion dollars. 'Ike' had a crisp reply: no ceasefire, no loan. The invaders were ordered to halt, and await the arrival of a UN intervention force.

The Suez crisis provoked a mighty, if predictable, wave of jingoistic fervour in the rightwing British press. There was a tide of genuine public support for "our boys" and a widespread mood of hostility towards Nasser. But at the same time - and arguably for the first time - there was a countervailing popular wave of revulsion against imperialist aggression. Hugh Gaitskell, not exactly the most radical of Labour party leaders, railed passionately against the war. So did Liberals and leftwing groups. Their stand was not hugely popular - the circulation of the Manchester Guardian, which fiercely opposed the war, fell markedly during the crisis - but the anti-war movement was a dramatic, even traumatic, shock for the nation.

What fatally undermined the Conservative government, however, was the dissent in its own ranks. Less than 50 years ago, there were plenty of Tories who still believed in the virtues of empire. But there was also a new generation which recognised the damage being done to Britain's real interests in the new world, and which was outraged by Eden's blinkered approach. Two junior ministers, Edward Boyle and Anthony Nutting, resigned from the government in protest against Suez. Among those who stayed on, but who expressed deep reservations about the Suez enterprise, was RA 'Rab' Butler, the man widely seen as Eden's heir apparent.

Eden himself was shattered by Suez, politically, physically and emotionally. On November 19, just three days before the last of the British invaders finally left the canal zone, he abruptly took himself off to Jamaica to recover, leaving behind Rab Butler in charge of the cabinet. On January 9, 1957, Eden resigned. The Conservative mandarins who controlled the leadership promptly took their revenge on Butler, seen as the leading liberal in the party, by elevating the more rightwing Harold Macmillan to Downing Street.

It may now seem astonishing to those who were not alive during the Suez crisis that Britain was prepared to take part in such an imperial adventure so recently. Even to those who clearly remember it - including this writer - it seems an anachronism an atavistic throwback.

In 1956, after all, Elvis Presley was already a star, Disneyland had been opened in California, and British theatre was in the throes of the 'kitchen sink' revolution. And yet, though it took place well within living memory, Suez was also a link with a not-so-distant past in which imperialism was a matter of pride rather than a term of abuse. Indeed, it marked definitively the transition between those two things.

British soldiers would go on fighting in various corners of the shrinking empire - east Africa, Aden, Malaya, Borneo and the Falklands - for another 25 years or so. The difference, after Suez, is that they fought largely to defend local regimes and systems, rather than to impose the will of London.

The years immediately following Suez saw a slew of new countries on the world stage which had formerly been colonies and dependencies. There is little doubt that the end of the imperial era was greatly accelerated by the squalid little war in Egypt.


International status

Although the canal was built to serve, and profit from, international trade, its international status remained undefined for many years. In 1888 the major maritime powers at the time (except Great Britain) signed the Convention of Constantinople, which declared that the canal should be open to ships of all nations in times of both peace and war. In addition, the convention forbade acts of hostility in the waters of the canal and the construction of fortifications on its banks. Great Britain did not sign the convention until 1904.

The history of international use of the canal during wartime includes denial of passage to Spanish warships during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and permission of passage for a squadron of the Russian navy during the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 and for Italian vessels during Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1935–36. Theoretically, the canal was open to all belligerents during World Wars I and II, but the naval and military superiority of the Allied forces denied effective use of the canal to the shipping of Germany and its allies.

Following the armistice between Israel and its Arab opponents in 1949, Egypt denied use of the canal to Israel and to all ships trading with Israel. The first of two canal closings occurred during the Suez Crisis of 1956–57, after Israel attacked Egyptian forces, and French and British troops occupied part of the canal zone. Several ships were trapped within the canal during that blockade and were unable to leave until the north end was reopened in January 1957. The second closing was a consequence of the Arab-Israeli war of June 1967, during and after which the canal was the scene of much fighting between Egypt and Israel and for several years formed the front line between the two armies. Egypt physically barricaded both ends of the canal, and 15 ships, known as the “Yellow Fleet” for the desert sand they slowly accumulated, were trapped in the canal’s Great Bitter Lake for the entire duration of the war. The international crews of the anchored ships provided each other with mutual support and camaraderie, though by 1969 most of the crew members had been allowed to leave. With the reopening of the canal in June 1975 and the signing of a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979, all ships (including those of Israeli registration) again had access to the waterway, though only 2 of the 15 trapped vessels were able to leave under their own power.


Construction of the Suez Canal: who build it and when

The situation was unblocked and the final push for the construction of the Suez Canal was given by the Saint-Simonianists, a French socialist movement that succeeded in obtaining the agreement of the Egyptian governor, Muhammad Ali, on condition that the Canal would remain Egyptian and, in any event, open to all nations.

Over the years, various projects were put forward, such as, for example, that of the engineer Prosper Enfantin in 1830, who, however, envisaged the passage would only be open to steamships, which made up a very small part of the vessels of the period. The definitive project was that of the engineer Luigi Negrelli from Trento, who finished the drawings in 1854.

The works, coordinated by the French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps, began on 25 April 1859 and took around 10 years. The workforce on which construction depended was enormous: indeed, it is said there were a million and a half Egyptians, working under conditions of forced labour. It is difficult to calculate how many workers died, including those struck down by a cholera epidemic that killed more than 120,000 workers. Ten years’ work, 21,000 French shareholders and the continuous modernisation of the construction site with steam-powered machines and other absolutely innovative devices for that time finally turned the plans into reality: the first ship crossed the Canal in February 1867 and the official inauguration took place on 17 November 1869. An extravagant party was held to baptise the new waterway with more than 2,000 guests, including – as the guest of honour – Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III.

When it opened, the Suez Canal was 101.9 miles long, 26 feet and 3 inches deep and 173 feet and 10.6 inches wide, enabling the transit of ships with a maximum draught of 22 feet.


What the 2021 Suez Canal Blockage Reveals About the History and Politics of Global Shipping

On the morning of March 23, a gargantuan freighter laden with containers, heading north to the Mediterranean, ran aground in the Suez Canal. The weather was blustery, with sandy gusts blowing across the canal. A strong gust and the hydrodynamics of shallow waters pushed the merchant vessel Ever Given into the east bank of the canal.

It was immediately clear that the bulbous nose at the prow of the ship had lodged in the canal's bank, and the 1,300-foot body of the ship lay diagonally across the waterway, blocking traffic. Ironically, as my new book explains, the most dramatic leaps in ship sizes were precipitated by Suez Canal politics in the 1950s and 1960s. Decades later, it's the vast size of the ship that makes refloating it so difficult.

By Friday, more than 160 ships were anchored in the Mediterranean and the Red seas. Egyptian officials appeared confident the canal could reopen within days, while salvage engineers cautioned that freeing the stuck ship might take weeks. Oil prices jumped up by a few dollars on Wednesday and insurance claims on freight delays have begun to trickle in.

Why ships became so large

At a quarter-mile, the ship is almost as long as the Empire State Building is tall. When fully laden, Ever Given can carry 20,000 20-foot freight containers, stacked in 10 or 11 rows, both on the deck and in the ship's hold. Because of its size and its deep draft, only the largest ports with deep harbors and the largest gantry cranes can receive the ship.

That this vast flow of cargo could come to a halt because a gust of wind blew a ship off course makes the simultaneous immensity and brittleness of global trade apparent.

Since its inauguration in 1869, the Suez Canal has been one of the most significant arteries of global trade. Its construction by rival European powers&mdashBritain and France&mdashconsolidated their empires in Asia and Africa. When Egypt nationalized the canal in 1956, Britain, France, and Israel attacked the country through Sinai. In the war that ensued, the canal was closed, filled with war debris and sunken ships.

The eight-month closure of the canal in 1956 and the eight-year closure after the 1967 war led to significant changes in global shipping. Here's why: If oil tankers from the Middle East now had to round the Cape of Good Hope to reach Europe, their journey would take at least three weeks longer.

To ensure profitability of this longer route, many freight carriers opted to take advantage of economies of scale by ordering massive new ships. In the space of a few years, oil tankers mushroomed in size, with the ultra large crude carriers reaching 1,300 feet, the same length as Ever Given.

Container ships account for much of global trade

About 30% of the world's seaborne trade today is in oil and petroleum products. Container ships like Ever Given primarily carry manufactured goods, and now account for one-third of the volume of global trade and an astonishing 60% of seaborne trade by value.

Nearly 12% of the world's cargo travels through the Suez Canal. That this vast flow of cargo could come to a halt because a gust of wind blew a ship off course makes the simultaneous immensity and brittleness of global trade apparent.

And the grounding of Ever Given also has exposed how the complex ownership structures in global shipping might make it difficult to hold anyone accountable. The Ever Given is operated by Taiwan-based shipping company Evergreen Maritime. Evergreen charters the ship from a Japanese firm a Dubai-based company acts as the agent for the ship in ports and the ship flies the flag of Panama.

Who might foot the bill?

A ship follows the laws of the flag it flies, not that of the ship's owners or operators. The Panamanian flag is a "flag of convenience." Flags of convenience, or open registries, have more lax labor and environmental regulations, and lower thresholds for safety and insurance provisions.

The grounding of Ever Given also has exposed how the complex ownership structures in global shipping might make it difficult to hold anyone accountable.

Last summer, the Wakashio, another ship owned by a Japanese firm but flagged to Panama, ran aground in Mauritius, spilling oil into the island's sensitive marine ecosystem. The fracturing of ownership and operation across different legal jurisdictions and national boundaries also makes it much harder to assign responsibility for accidents such as the grounding of Wakashio and Ever Given.

It is as yet unclear how long it will take for the Ever Given to be towed out of the flow of the canal traffic. As the clock ticks, Egypt is not collecting tolls on ships' passage. And ships, including those operated by Evergreen, have begun to reroute around the Cape of Good Hope.

For now, the knock-on effect of the stoppage is the accumulation of insurance claims and late fees, and delays in the delivery of cargo. But in the longer term, much as it did in the mid-20th century, the 2021 blockage of the Suez Canal, combined with the effects of the pandemic, may precipitate a reckoning in how maritime transport operates.


After the Canal

1872
The Company narrowly avoids bankruptcy.

25 November 1875
The British government buys the 176,602 Compagnie universelle du canal de Suez shares held by Ismail and thus becomes the principal shareholder.

21 February 1876
Convention solving the conflict over the tariffs for using the shipping canal.

June 1884 to February 1885
Establishment of a works programme for the widening of the Suez Canal.

1 March 1887
Authorisation for the night-time navigation of the canal.

22 December 1888
The Constantinople International Convention guaranteeing the neutrality and free use of the Suez Canal.


Assista o vídeo: Le canal de Suez, immense source de devises pour lÉgypte, fête ses 150 ans (Dezembro 2021).