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Dredging Up The Past: The Suez Canal, Part 3

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The Suez Canal has proven to be an enduring source of fascination since it first opened in 1869, the canal has moved untold thousands of ships, tons of materials, and throngs of people between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. While it’s easy to believe that the achievement of the Suez Canal belongs to the past, more recent dredging and construction projects have made the canal an even more impressive project. Like these projects, U.S. Aqua Services continues to innovate and find new ways to make dredging an even more effective and safe way to interact with our water and natural environment. As a top-tier dredge rental company, our machinery is designed with minimal environmental impact in mind. And now, part 3 of our Suez Canal focus.

The Suez Canal In The 20th Century

We left part 2 with the British occupation of Egypt near the turn of the century. The early 20th century was one of the most dynamic periods of recent history. Technology, culture, ideas, and governments all rapidly changed in response to an increasingly interconnected and globalized world. This was especially true at the Suez Canal.

While the British had occupied Egypt since 1882, their occupation was relatively short-lived. The First World War drained its imperial resources, and the occupation of colonies became less tenable after the war. Rather than maintaining these territories, Britain began negotiating treaties with former colonies to make them essentially independent, while still maintaining control over valuable resources.

This was true in Egypt, and in 1936, the Anglo-Egyptian treaty was signed. The treaty removed the British presence from Egypt, except for a small military force that maintained the canal and protected the British financial interests there. While this seemed like an acceptable way for both nations to achieve their own interests, soon Egyptian nationalists began calling for control of the canal. By 1954, the two nations agreed to a new treaty that would annul the 1936 work, and gradually remove British troops over the course of seven years.

However, the Egyptian government didn’t want to wait seven years, and President Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the canal in 1956 as a way to pay for a new dredging project along the Nile River. Israeli, French, and British military forces responded to Nasser’s maneuver and occupied the canal zone. After a series of tense negotiations, military forces left the canal in March of 1957. Egypt reclaimed control of the canal and opened it up to commercial shipping.

The canal would be the site of further international attention in 1967 when Israel occupied the Sinai Peninsula during the Six-Day War. The Suez Canal would serve as the front line between the armies of Egypt and Israel for the next eight years. Only in 1975 would the canal reopen as a gesture of goodwill between the two nations.

The Canal Today

Despite its complicated past, the Canal is still a major way to transport goods and material between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, the canal sees the traffic of approximately 50 ships a day, and more than 300 million tons of materials every year.

Because the canal is so busy, it has been the focus of a nearly endless amount of projects and expansions. Most recently, a 2014 project required the combined efforts of two dredging companies. Between the two of them and their dredging equipment, they moved nearly 200 million cubic yards of sand; a project that far surpassed the original construction in the 1860s. These dredging companies faced unique challenges of their own. Their modernized dredging equipment removed material at such a fast rate that their settling basins quickly overflowed, causing sand to flow back into the canal. The one-year long project saw the use of 21 cutter suction dredgers and nearly 1800 workers. The project also required the use of some of the largest and most powerful dredgers in the world.

U.S. Aqua Services

The Suez Canal was, and continues to be a triumph of dredging technology and equipment. Both the initial project and subsequent expansion required an unparalleled amount of innovation to develop dredging equipment that would meet the needs of the dredging companies and their projects. It also required an impressive commitment to communication and an understanding of the environment. These are all values and commitments that resonate with U.S. Aqua Services. Our dredge rental service encompasses our in-house designed and maintained hydraulic dredgers. Our dredging equipment rentals include our unyielding commitment to customer service and environmental stewardship. Contact us today to see how we can help your next project.