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Suez Canal And Its Transit

History And Description

The Suez Canal, is a man made waterway which runs north to south across the Isthmus of Suez in north-eastern Egypt. It connects Port Said in the Mediterranean with the Gulf of Suez, a northern arm of the Red Sea. The canal provides a shortcut for ships operating between Europe or America with ports located in southern Asia, eastern Africa, and Oceania, by avoiding the need to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa. Economically and strategically it is one of the most important waterways in the world.

The Suez Canal is about 195 km (121 mi) long and ships of 20 m (64 ft) draft can make the transit therefore accommodating ships as large as 150,000 tons fully loaded. Because it connects two points at sea level, and has no high ground in between it has no locks, and transit time is about 15 hours.

The First Canal

The first canal between the Nile delta and the Red Sea was excavated about the 13th century bc, possibly on the orders of an Egyptian ruler, either Seti I or Ramses II. During the next 1,000 years the canal was periodically neglected, but several rulers at various times had it re-excavated or modified. All efforts to maintain it in a good condition were abandoned sometime in the 8th century ad.

The Modern Day Canal

In 1854 a French diplomat and engineer Ferdinand Marie de Lesseps enlisted the interest of the Egyptian viceroy Said Pasha in a new canal project. In 1858 La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez (Universal Company of the Maritime Suez Canal) was formed with authority to cut a canal. The company was given permission to  operate the canal for 99 years, after which time ownership would pass to the Egyptian government. The company was originally a private Egyptian concern, its stock owned chiefly by French and Egyptian interests. In 1875 the British government purchased Egypt's shares.

Excavation of the canal was begun on April 25, 1859, and the canal was opened to navigation on November 17, 1869.

The strategic importance of the Suez Canal meant that it has been closed to maritime traffic during several conflicts, the last time during the Six-Day War of 1967, when several vessels were sunk in the canal, blocking the shipping lanes. The canal was reopened in June 1975, after an international task force cleared it of wrecks.

Transit Procedures
You will be advised by an official of the Canal Authority on the correct procedure that you should follow. These procedures can take up to three days to complete and can be done by the yacht's skipper who must first visit the Small Craft Department in the main building of the Canal Authority. Here you will be briefed about the various formalities to be carried out as well as the various fees to be paid. The fees include the transiting fee, an insurance policy, ports and lights fee, etc.
It may be advisable to use an agent to complete these arduous tasks on your behalf.
The procedure in order is as follows for both northbound transits at Suez or southbound transits at Port Said
• The Suez Canal Small Craft Department to present the ship's documents and apply for canal transit.
• The Port Immigration office to complete arrival forms.
• The Insurance company to obtain an insurance certificate.
• Then, return to the Suez Canal Small Craft Department to present your insurance certificate.
• The Customs and Quarantine offices must be visited on the day before your canal transit for the yacht's outward clearance. (These departments may visit the yacht).
• The Port Immigration office to present your departure form.
• The Red Sea Port Authority to issue a port clearance certificate.
• Then, return to the Small Craft Department with the port clearance certificate (they will hand this to the pilot before your transit).
• Call at the Inspection office - for measurement and final inspection of the yacht to issue you with a transit permit for your Suez Canal transit.

The Canal Authority web site has a calculator to help you estimate transit charges

Arrival to start transit

Port Said
It is not advisable to approach Port Said at night because of the high volume of shipping in the area. You will be met by a pilot boat and directed to the Port Fouad Yacht Club marina. It is advisable however to use an agent that you can contact by VHF when approaching as he can obtain permission from the Port Captain on your behalf and direct you to proceed directly to the Port Fouad Yacht Club. For this purpose,  recommended agents are: Messa Egypt Ph +20 123451258 : contactperson , capt.Yasser Gamal or Nagib Latif of the Felix Maritime Agency, Ph: + 20 66 333132 or Fax: + 20 66 333510, Mobile: +20 12 211 9365.

No visas are issued and the immigration procedures are very easy for yachts that are only intending to stay in Port Said for as long as it takes to make the arrangements for the canal transit. Those intending to stay for longer must complete the full Egypt entry procedure.
On the day of the canal transit, the Small Craft Department will call you early to collect the pilot and take him to the yacht club to commence your canal transit after you have taken the passports (of all aboard) to Immigration to have them stamped.
The pilot will guide the vessel as far as Ismailia, where you must overnight (yachts are not allowed to transit the canal at night). The crew are not allowed to disembark here. Early the following morning, a pilot will continue the transit with you to Suez. Most yachts will stop at the Suez Yacht Club before continuing into the Red Sea.

Suez is at the southern end of the Suez Canal. On approach you will normally be met by an agent's vessel who will attempt to coerce you to use his services. It is recommended to rather contact an agent of your choice on VHF16 in advance, who will meet you on your arrival and obtain permission for you to proceed directly to the Suez Yacht Club marina and also contact the officials to meet you at the yacht club for clearance.

The Suez Yacht Club is located beyond the Canal Authority office, on the L/H side of the entrance to the canal.
Your agent will handle all the formalities for the Canal transit (as listed at the top of the page) as well as to bring the pilot to your boat on the day that you start your transit. It is highly recommended to make use of an agent in Suez.
If you would rather not use an agent you must contact "Port Control" on VHF16 to notify them of your approach and then again after you have anchored in the waiting area of Port Ibrahim. You must complete all the formalities for the canal transit and once completed Port Control will give permission for you to proceed to the yacht club and collect your canal pilot.

Your pilot will board early in the morning to begin the transit and you must overnight at Ismailia before continuing to Port Said the following morning.