Canals & Straits

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    The Bosphorus in Turkey is one of the

    busiest waterways in the world, linking

    the Black Sea to the Aegean and

    Mediterranean Seas and thence to the

    outside world. All shipping bound for or

    departing from the Black Sea ports of

    Contanza and Odessa have to transitthis canal

    19 miles long & 1 mile wide

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    The Panama Canal is 50 miles long andlinks the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

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    The Suez Canal is one of the world's mostheavily used shipping lanes, with anaverage of 55 ships using it daily.Completed between 1858 - 1869, themasterpiece of Ferdinand De Lesseps, theSuez Canal immediately cut the distancebetween Europe and the Far East, allowingvessels to avoid the long and arduous

    voyage around the Cape.The Canal is 118 miles long and the

    minimum depth is 16.1 metres.

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    In 1956, a joint British/French/Israeli attempt tokeep the canal out of the political control ofEgypt was thwarted and within 11 years theCanal was closed (on 5th June 1967) for

    exactly 8 years, opening again on 5th June1975. 54 vessels had been trapped in the canalwhen it was closed by Egypt.The closure led tohuge increases in the price of oil and the birthof the VLCC (supertankers), needed to get oil

    to Europe in large quantities via the Cape.

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    Up to 600 vessels pass through the Straits of

    Dover every day, ranking it above even theStrait of Singapore (separating Indonesia and

    the city state) as the world's busiest route for


    Cargo ships, tankers and fishing boats

    moving between the North Sea and Atlanticregularly cross paths with smaller passenger

    ferries shuttling between British, French and

    Belgian ports

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    Vessels too large to go through the panama canal,

    are generally called "Capsize" vessels, because theyhave to take the much longer southern route (via theCape of Good Hope in South Africa) to pass from theAtlantic to the Pacific Oceans (or vice versa).However, the name "Capesize" is confusing,

    because it is sometimes mistakenly thought to referto Cape Horn. Few ships would want to encounterthe violent weather around Cape Horn, preferringeither to go via South Africa or if they need to go viaSouth America, to use the calmer (and slightly

    shorter) route through the Magellan Straits; achannel that weaves its way through numeroussmall islands just north of Cape Horn, and the chiefport of which is Punta Arenas.

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    The Straits are named after FerdinandMagellan, who in 1519 successfully took a fleetof 3 ships (out of an original fleet of 5) throughthese straits for the first time, while trying to

    get to the Spice Islands in the Pacific. Hesucceeded, but died later during theexpedition. As a light-hearted memorial to thatfirst transit, those who today sail on vesselsthrough the Straits for the first time, are often

    given an offically stamped "Explorer'sCertificate", such as the one sent to us by LuizGustavo Cruz from Brasil.

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    More than 50,000 ve.ssels per year transit

    the 621 mile long Strait of Malacca. Linkingthe Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Straits of

    Malacca is the shortest sea route between

    three of the world's most populouscountries -- India, China, and Indonesia --

    and therefore is considered to be the key

    choke point in Asia.

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    The narrowest point of this shipping lane is the Phillips

    Channel in the Singapore Strait, which is only 1.5 mileswide at its narrowest point. This creates a naturalbottleneck, with the potential for a collision, grounding,or oil spill (in addition, piracy has historically been aregular occurrence in the Singapore Strait, but over thepast 15 years has grown alarmingly). Some 400 shippinglines and 700 ports worldwide rely on the Malacca andSingapore straits to get to the Singapore port. For

    example, 80% of Japan's oil comes from the Middle Eastvia the Malacca Straits. To skip the straits would force aship to travel an extra 994 miles from the Gulf. All excesscapacity of the world fleet might be absorbed, with theeffect strongest for crude oil shipments and dry bulk

    such as coal. Closure of the Strait of Malacca wouldimmediately raise freight rates worldwide. With Chineseoil imports from the Middle East increasing steadily, theStrait of Malacca is likely to grow in strategic importance

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    If there was ever a "jugular vein" for the world'seconomy, then the Strait of Hormuz is where it issituated. Near the bottom end of the 600 mile longPersian (Arabian) Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz, at theirnarrowest point are just 34 miles across, betweenthe Sultanate of Oman and the Islamic Republic ofIran.

    Vessels transiting the Straits of Hormuz, have toadhere to strict traffic separation schemes, whichprovide 2 mile wide channels for inbound andoutward bound vessels, with a 2 mile buffer zone inbetween.

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    80% f th il d d i th P i G lf

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    80% of the oil produced in the Persian Gulfis transported by tanker through the Straitsof Hormuz, which means over 13 million

    barrels of oil per day. Such volumes makethe Straits of Hormuz strategically vital, andat times of international tension in theMiddle East, U.S. and British naval vessels

    are always present to ensure the continuedflow of oil. Many of the small islands andcoastlines are still disputed between Oman,

    Iran and the United Arab Emirates. It isestimated that globally, 35% of oiltransported by sea, has to pass through thestrait

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    Linking Lake Ontario with Lake Erie

    (and thence to the St. Lawrence

    Seaway), avoiding the Niagara Falls

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    On November 30, 1824, William H. Merritt

    of St. Catharines, Ontario, formed a

    company to build a canal that would

    bypass Niagara Falls. It was completed on

    November 30, 1829.