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Suez Canal has a History of Blockages. Its Traffic Jam of 1967 Lasted for 8 Long Years

The ship is stranded at the narrow Suez Canal which connects Mediterranean in the north with the Red Sea in the south. (AFP)

The ship is stranded at the narrow Suez Canal which connects Mediterranean in the north with the Red Sea in the south. (AFP)

Did you know? The longest traffic jam on the Suez Canal lasted for eight long years from 1967-1975.

One of the most vital passageways in the world for international trade, the Suez Canal has been all over social media and news channels lately. A giant ship called Ever Given has been wedged in the canal, blocking all traffic ahead and behind, since Tuesday. The bow of the ship is on the canal’s eastern bank while its stern is lodged in the western bank. The incident has opened up the floodgates of memes on social media. The authorities claim it can take days or even weeks to clear. However, this isn’t the longest or the worst jam on the canal.

The longest traffic jam on the Suez Canal lasted for eight long years.

Yes, you read that right. One gets frustrated in an eight-minute jam on the road. Imagine being locked on the seas for such a long time when you have no escape. The cause of this jam was a “war” between two neighbouring nations.

The Suez Canal is a narrow channel of water that connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea. Passing through Egypt and separating the landmasses of Africa and Asia. Before its opening in 1869, ships had to navigate go across South to Africa then north towards Europe. Then happened the longest traffic jam in history. Between 1967–1975, the canal was packed worse than Bangalore or Noida road at peak office hours.

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Egypt and Israel, the two ends of the canal, did not have cordial history. In 1967, the passive enmity grew into a fully-declared war. On June 5, 1967, unbeknownst to the war brewing, 15 ships entered the canal on a 12-hour journey to cross through. The chunk of the canal got littered by the debris of the war— sunken ships, mines and so on—some intentionally put by Egypt to blockade the Israeli economy, some just collateral damage.

Then, the Egyptian government ordered a lockdown of the canal, marooning the fifteen ships from various countries to be halted where they were. Israel won the 6-day war but the new border was the Suez Canal itself. The other cargo ships took the longer route across Africa, making world trade and economy suffer tremendously by the longer commute.

Then, a second war broke out in 1973. Both sides incurred huge losses (human casualties and economic) and finally admitted to a ceasefire. The troops blocking entry and exit of the canal receded. The debris filled in the canal as blockage took two years to clear. Then, on June 5, 1975, exactly on the day of the initial fateful journey, the Suez Canal was reopened.

Hopefully, the current log will take a much shorter time to clear.

first published:March 26, 2021, 17:40 IST