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TAURUS Ships Transit Suez Canal

The ships of TAURUS 09 have transited the Suez Canal, marking the start of Phase Two of the deployment.

After a brief stop off at Port Said, the entrance to the canal where they waited patiently to be brought forward through this busy shipping lane, HMS Bulwark, HMS Ocean. HMS Somerset, HMS Talent, RFA Wave Ruler, RFA Lyme Bay and USS Mitscher began their voyage through the 192 km long waterway which opened in 1869.

The canal has no locks due to the flat terrain, and the minor sea level difference between each end is inconsequential.

There is one shipping lane with several passing areas. On a typical day, three convoys transit the canal, two southbound and one northbound. The first southbound convoy enters the canal in the early morning hours and proceeds to the Great Bitter Lake, where the ships anchor out of the fairway, awaiting passage of the northbound convoy. The northbound convoy passes the second southbound convoy, which moors in a bypass near El Qantara. The passage takes between 11 and 16 hours at a speed of around 8 knots (15 km/h). The low speed helps prevent erosion of the canal banks by ships' waves.

By 1955 approximately two-thirds of Europe's oil passed through the canal. About 7.5% of world sea trade is carried via the canal today.

While many travelled through the Canal for the first time, others, more than  a hundred sailors in fact from HMS Bulwark and HMS Somerset took the opportunity to hop off at Port Said to travel to Cairo in Egypt for a whistle-stop visit of the Pyramids and Sphinx, picking up their ships again as they passed through the canal, out in to the Red Sea.

6th Apr 2009

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