World: The Suez Canal's Bleak Centennial

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To compensate for loss of the canal, shippers have turned to using huge supertankers of 200,000 tons and more, and to sending cargo from Asia to Europe via Seattle overland to New York. Egypt and Israel are building pipelines to pump Middle East oil to Mediterranean ports. Though a reopened Suez might have a diminished role in world trade, it would still be very busy. Freighters, liners and warships making up 80% of the world's tonnage could travel it fully loaded, as could tankers up to 70,000 tons. Even supertankers, whose fully loaded hulls are too deep for the canal's 38-ft. channels, could take twelve days off the southbound trip by sailing under light ballast through Suez to the Persian Gulf refineries rather than sailing around the Cape of Good Hope.

Beyond the task of raising two sunken ships and a downed bridge, there are few physical barriers to reopening Suez. Most experts agree that the removal and dredging operations could be completed within six months at a cost of $30 million and would restore the canal to its prewar depth. The task, however, will be painstaking and delicate. The engineers must make certain that any unexploded bombs or artillery shells that fell in the canal are fished out before the world's ships pass once more through Suez. One problem that does not worry engineers is silting, since 90% of the normal silt is a result of currents caused by propellers' eroding of the banks. The propellers have not turned since June 1967.

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