A shipping container passes as excavators work on expanding the Suez Canal on February 15, 2022. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

A shipping container passes as excavators work on expanding the Suez Canal on February 15, 2022. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

This aerial photo shows cargo ships in the Gulf of Suez. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

This aerial photo shows cargo ships in the Gulf of Suez. (Reuters/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Thousands of ships pass through the Suez every year. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Thousands of ships pass through the Suez every year. (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

Tug boats and diggers work to free Ever Given, lodged across the Suez Canal, on March 28, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

Tug boats and diggers work to free Ever Given, lodged across the Suez Canal, on March 28, 2021. (Suez Canal Authority via AP)

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea.

The Suez Canal connects the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea.

Stretching the Suez

Posted: May 1, 2022

How do you get from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea? You head to Egypt and take the Suez Canal—if your boat will fit.

You might remember the huge traffic jam in the Suez last year. A cargo ship called Ever Given got stuck for six days. No other ships could get around it. Boats carrying valuable goods such as oil, cars, animals, and grain waited behind this gigantic crammed craft. Companies lost billions of dollars in shipments.

Ships do not normally get stuck in the Suez Canal. Ever Given ran aground sideways, and the canal authorities blamed its owner for the accident. Still, the Suez is getting a stretch this year. That’s because lots and lots of ships pass through. Sometimes they don’t move quickly enough.

People will widen the two-way section of the canal from about 44 miles to 51 miles. The wider waterway will fit six more ships at a time.

That should suit ship owners. More ships are trying to move through the canal—as many as 100 at a time. For each ship, the trip should take 11 hours. In order for that trip to stay short and safe, the canal must be wider.

Workers started on the original Suez Canal in 1859. One and half million people labored on it. Their work changed the world. The canal is the shortest water route from Europe to Asia. Before it was finished in 1869, people had to sail around the southern tip of Africa to get from continent to continent. (Trace that on a map!) And Egypt makes a pretty penny off the ships moving through the canal—all the more reason to widen it.

Why? Trade routes show people’s creative determination to “take dominion” and solve challenges. Unlike God, we can’t part the Red Sea. But we don’t give up on creating a passage.