Canals, those blue ribbons that connect the oceans
If there are any ancient projects in the world today that are still bringing infinite benefits to modern society, then the canals dug by humans must be an outstanding representative of them.
If you take a closer look at the earth where humans live, you will find an interesting phenomenon: at the junction of the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, and at the junction of Africa, Europe, Asia, and the North and South American continents, there are often some narrow, low-lying isthmuses. Human beings dug deep and connected these isthmuses, and blue ribbons with rippling blue waves were born.
However, modern people have ever thought about how much convenience and wealth, but also how much pain and sorrow, the canal that connects various continents and oceans has brought to mankind during its excavation and navigation… Suez Canal
: What flows is rolling wealth and sorrow.
The Suez Canal was excavated by the ancient Egyptians with their ingenuity and hard work, one shovel after another, after ten years of hard work.
According to historical records, 3900 years ago, before the opening of the Suez Canal, there was an artificially dug Pharaoh River here. At that time, the oldest artificial canal in human history was only 150 kilometers long and 25 meters wide, and it was often silted up by sediment, making it difficult to pass through. In 1859, Lesseps, the French diplomat in Egypt, proposed to build an artificial river between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea to facilitate international trade. Thus, a huge project that took 10 years and 8 months and employed millions of migrant workers kicked off in a corner of the earth.
As can be seen on the map, northeast of Egypt, Asia and Africa are joined at the Isthmus of Suez. The Isthmus of Suez is a geological fault between the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea. The entire isthmus is a slender and flat desert area, which is very suitable for digging artificial canals. The Suez Canal starts from Port Said in the north, passes through Lake Timsa, the Great Bitter Lake, and the Little Bitter Lake in the middle, and ends at Taufik Port at the top of the Gulf of Suez in the south. The total length is 173 kilometers, the width is 180-200 meters, and the water depth is 15 meters.
The Suez Canal connects Asia, Africa, and Europe. It was officially opened to navigation in November 1869. It is an international trade channel that connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and then connects the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The excavation of the canal has greatly shortened the voyage from Europe, North America to the Indian Ocean and the Pacific coast. From the Atlantic coast of Europe through the Mediterranean Sea – the Suez Canal – the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean, the voyage is shortened by 5,500-8,000 kilometers compared with the detour around the Cape of Good Hope, and for the countries along the Black Sea, it is shortened by more than 10,000 kilometers.
In order to dig the canal, about 120,000 Egyptians died, and the Egyptian people paid a huge price for it in terms of manpower, material resources and lives. However, the “great oriental waterway” dug by the Egyptian people on their own land with blood, sweat and lives has been occupied by imperialism for a long time and has become a tool for their economic plunder and military aggression.
During the excavation of the canal, the Egyptian government could not support the various expenses of this huge project with its own financial resources, so it had to borrow money from abroad. In order to repay the debt, the Egyptian government had to sell the shares of the canal to the British government, which made the UK the biggest beneficiary of the canal. After the opening of the canal, Britain and France monopolized 96% of the shares of the Suez Canal Company, earning huge profits every year. At that time, the canal management department was the “Suez Canal Company of All Nations”, the two major shareholders of which were the United Kingdom and France, while Egypt only held 3% of the shares. In 1955, for example, the annual income of the canal was as high as 100 million U.S. dollars, and Egypt only received 3 million U.S. dollars.
Since 1882, Britain has established the largest overseas military base in the canal area, with nearly 100,000 troops stationed there. After the Second World War, the Egyptian people insisted on taking back the sovereignty of the Suez Canal and fought unremittingly for this. In October 1954, Britain was forced to agree to completely withdraw its occupying forces from Egyptian territory by June 13, 1956. On July 26 of the same year, the Egyptian government announced that the Suez Canal was nationalized by Egypt. Since then, the Egyptian people have truly become the masters of the Suez Canal.
The Suez Canal, like the pyramids, deserves the pride and pride of the Egyptian people. Today’s Suez Canal is the busiest waterway in the world. Every year, more than 20,000 ships from more than 100 countries pass through the Suez Canal, accounting for half of the world’s shipping volume. On average, more than 60 large ships pass by every day. ship, with a deadweight of more than 1 million tons. The Suez Canal is world-renowned for its many countries, frequent passing ships, and large cargo volume, and plays a pivotal role in world ocean transportation.
The opening of the canal not only brought great convenience to world trade, but also brought huge business opportunities to Egypt. The Suez Canal brought a lot of money to Egypt. For Egypt, the Suez Canal is an important economic lifeline of the country and a cash cow. The Suez Canal is Egypt’s third largest source of foreign exchange earnings after remittances and tourism. According to the statistical report of the Canal Authority, during the 25 years from the reopening of the Suez Canal in June 1975 to June 2000, a total of US$30 billion was collected for the transit of ships in Egypt. Six times the sum of transit fee revenues for nearly a hundred years until June 1969 when it was closed due to the Middle East war.
While the Suez Canal brought great benefits to Egypt, it also brought great pain. The fate of the Suez Canal is closely linked with the war in the Middle East.
The pursuit of destiny by the Jews and the Arabs, the fanaticism of different religious beliefs, and the manipulation of the Middle East by foreign forces, especially the former Soviet Union and the United States, have turned the supposedly peaceful canal and its sky into a battlefield filled with gunpowder. In the past 30 years, five wars broke out on both sides of the canal. The canal, which had brought a lot of money to Egypt, fell into the shadow of swords and swords and bloody wind.
In 1956, serious conflicts broke out between Egypt, Britain and France over the Suez Canal. At that time, because Britain and France refused to inject capital into the Aswan Dam project, Egypt nationalized the operation right of the canal. Therefore, Britain and France jointly launched an attack with Israel and sent troops to regain control of the canal. The war has brought endless damage to the Suez Canal, and every time the war ends, it will also cause huge damage to the Suez Canal. Only those warships and merchant ships that were sunk during the war were salvaged, and dangerous items left over from wars such as mines and bombs were cleaned up. It costs staggeringly.
Due to the unrest in the Middle East, the Suez Canal is often closed. After the Middle East War in June 1967, the canal became the front line of confrontation between Egypt and Israel. The canal was closed for 8 years due to the “Six-Day War” in the Middle East. Egypt regained control after the Israeli-Arab war in 1973 and did not reopen until 1975. The closure of the canal and the toll it caused the war on Egypt is incalculable.
The five Middle East wars have long been the dust of history, and the nameplates of the soldiers who died in the battles are now rusty. However, the hatred left over from the bloody conflicts has been passed down from generation to generation on both sides of the strait. However, no matter how time and space change in the world, the tranquil Suez Canal is still flowing silently and slowly, as always; the river is glowing with clear white light, like a blue ribbon praying for peace, dancing under the haze of the Middle East , day and night.
Panama Canal: once controlled by the United States
Opening the map of the Americas, you can see that the watershed between the North and South American continents has dropped sharply to its lowest point in the Republic of Panama. Along the lowest point there is a narrow, slender section, like the wasp’s waist of the Western Hemisphere landmass. This wasp waist is the isthmus of Panama. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, connecting the North and South continents. The Panama Canal runs through the narrowest point of the isthmus.
Known as one of the seven engineering wonders of the world, the Panama Canal is another world-famous international artificial waterway besides the Suez Canal, with a total length of 81.3 kilometers, a water depth ranging from 13 to 15 meters, and a river width of 150 to 304 meters. Known as the “Bridge of the World” like the Suez Canal, it connects the vast Pacific Ocean with the rippling Atlantic Ocean.
Historically, Panama was once a province of the Republic of Colombia. As early as the 16th century, King Charles V of Spain ordered the survey and survey of the excavation of the canal. It was first excavated by the French in 1881 and abandoned in 1889 due to financial difficulties. In 1903, under the planning of the United States, a coup took place in the Republic of Colombia. On November 3, Panama became independent from Colombia and declared the establishment of the Republic of Panama. On November 18, the U.S. and Panama signed a “U.S.-Pakistan Treaty” in which the U.S. occupied the Canal Zone, stipulating that the U.S. would obtain the permanent use of Panama at the price of a one-time payment of 10 million U.S. dollars and an annual rent of 250,000 U.S. dollars after nine years. Ba Canal Zone (approximately 147,400 hectares). In addition to this right, the United States was also given the right to build railroads and garrison troops. In this way, the United States heavily stationed in the Canal Zone and controlled all the administrative, judicial, police, railway, financial and other powers in the Canal Zone, making the Canal Zone a veritable “state within a state” and “colonial enclave”.
Beginning in 1904, the United States invested 387 million U.S. dollars and hired hundreds of thousands of people to continue digging the canal on the basis of the original excavation of the canal channel in France. During the entire excavation and construction process, laborers from all over the world, including many Chinese laborers, paid the price of blood, sweat and even their lives for the excavation of the Panama Canal. The Panama region has a tropical jungle climate, and the weather is humid and hot, with many torrential rains and floods, which is unfavorable for the construction. The amount of earth and rock excavated during the excavation of the Panama Canal (up to 259 million cubic meters) far exceeds that of the Suez Canal.
There are many difficulties in digging the Panama Canal. No one would have thought that the biggest difficulty encountered during the excavation process came from diseases-many workers suffered from malaria and yellow fever. The ravages of tropical infectious diseases made it impossible to continue the project.
Challenged by the complex terrain, extremely harsh construction conditions, and malaria and yellow fever, 70,000 workers from Panama and other countries died successively. According to historical records, more than 6,000 people died in the first five years, and at the peak, 350 workers died every month. Diseases prevalent in the tropics once left many doctors at a loss. Some people say that in Panama at that time, only funeral workers could make a fortune.
It is said that after the United States purchased the right to develop the canal in France for US$40 million, its first task was to send entomologists to Panama to eradicate local mosquitoes. It turned out that the British microbiologist Ross discovered that the culprit of carrying and spreading infectious disease viruses was mosquitoes. As a result of this major discovery, people quickly defeated malaria and yellow fever, ensuring the completion of the canal.
General Gorgas, the first health officer of the Panama region and responsible for mosquito control, expressed his deep gratitude to Ross for this: “It was your discovery that made Panama build a canal on the isthmus.” It was completed in 1914 and opened to navigation in 1915. Since 1920, the canal has become an international navigable waterway. Before the opening of the Panama Canal, voyages between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean had to bypass the narrow and tortuous Strait of Magellan at the southern tip of the South American continent, or Cape Horn, which was often stormy. . At the end of the 19th century, when the United States was at war with Spain, the warships anchored on the west coast of the United States had to detour to South America and sailed for more than 60 days before reaching the Caribbean Sea to participate in the war. After the opening of the canal, it only takes 8 hours for the ship to cross the two oceans.
Since the opening of the Panama Canal, the United States has been controlling all aspects of the canal navigation. The highest authority that manages the canal is the “Panama Canal Management Committee”. The general director of the committee is an American, and the deputy is a Panamanian. All the pilots of the canal are also American. The people of Panama continue to wage a heroic struggle to regain control of the canal.
On January 9, 1946, the anti-American patriotic struggle that shocked the world broke out in Panama. With the unremitting resistance of the Panamanian people, on September 7, 1977, the U.S. government finally signed the “Panama Canal Treaty” with the Panamanian government. Basilo Lacas, President of the Republic of Panama, said: “We have been fighting for more than half a century” to regain sovereignty over the canal.
The new treaty stipulates that on December 31, 1999, full control of the canal will be officially handed over to Panama. When the new treaty takes effect, it will replace the unequal US-Pakistan Treaty imposed on the Panamanian people by the United States in 1903 and all related amendments. All US troops stationed at 16 bases in the Canal Zone will be withdrawn. After the canal is taken back, the Panamanian government will set up a special management agency to handle the canal affairs in a unified manner, and the authority is only responsible to the Panamanian government.
It should be pointed out that before the signing of the “Panama Canal Treaty”, the US Senate added a “De Concini Amendment” when it approved the new Panama Canal Treaty. This amendment stipulates that the United States “has the right to station troops in the Panama Canal Zone” after 2000 and can unilaterally “use military force” to defend the neutrality of the Canal. The adoption of this amendment aroused strong dissatisfaction from the Panamanian government and people, and also aroused great concern from Latin American countries and other countries in the third world. Torrijos, the head of the Panamanian government, pointed out in a speech to the American “Chicago Sun-Times” reporter that the amendment passed by the U.S. Senate is a “threat to Panama’s national sovereignty” and Brezhnev’s “limited sovereignty theory” in the U.S. a replica of
The United States returned regional sovereignty over the canal to Panama in 1979, but still controls the canal. In 1989, Panamanian power figure Manuel Noriega threatened to destroy the canal if the United States did not ratify the treaty. On December 20, the then US President Herbert Walker Bush sent troops to Panama in the name of protecting the canal, safeguarding human rights and overthrowing the dictator, and arrested Noriega. This move aroused opposition from Latin American countries, who suspected that the US government wanted to take the opportunity to overthrow the “Panama Canal Treaty” and refused to return the right to manage the Panama Canal. Under the unanimous opposition of Latin American countries, the United States was forced to formally transfer all control of the canal to the Panamanian government on December 31, 1999 as scheduled.
Today, about 12,000 to 15,000 ships from all over the world pass through the canal every year. At present, goods accounting for 5% of the global trade volume have been sent to all parts of the world through the canal. The United States, Japan and China are the three largest users of the Panama Canal.
Hotly Discussed and Expected Canal
At present, the two most important canals in the world, the Panama Canal and the Suez Canal, both face a common problem, that is, the channel of the canal is narrow and the tonnage of cargo ships that can pass is limited. Taking the Panama Canal as an example, the Panamax (a cargo ship specially built for passing through the Panama Canal), the largest freighter that can currently pass through, has a tonnage of only 75,000 tons. Although the tonnage of post-Panamax freighters under design can reach 150,000 tons, large-scale reconstruction of the existing channel of the canal is required. In this case all large or very large freighters need to detour.
It is against this background that Nicaragua’s canal plan came into being.
On June 11, 2013, the British “Daily Mail” disclosed a piece of news, which aroused widespread concern in the international shipping industry. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has submitted a bill to the National Assembly aimed at building a new canal that could compete with the Panama Canal at a cost of 25 billion pounds (about 240 billion yuan), and the construction and management of the canal The operating license is handed over to the Hong Kong-Nicaragua Development and Investment Corporation, a Chinese-funded consortium located in Hong Kong.
Nicaragua is located in the middle of Central America. In view of the special strategic location of the country, as early as the beginning of the 19th century when the gold rush in the western United States was once on the rise, many scholars put forward the idea of digging the Nicaragua Canal. In the 1990s, the Nigerian Canal project was proposed again, and many large construction groups in the United States, Japan and Europe were eager to try it. However, due to the lack of domestic finances in Nigeria, the country’s “100-year dream” was repeatedly blocked.
On June 13, the Nicaraguan Congress voted to approve the $40 billion Nicaragua Canal Plan. According to the content of the bill, the canal will traverse Nicaragua from the Caribbean coast in the east to the Pacific coast in the west. According to reports, the 200-kilometer canal started in 2014 and will take 11 years to complete. Although the investment required for the canal project is huge, the benefits after the canal is put into use will also be considerable. According to estimates, if the annual cargo passing through the canal is calculated at 620 million tons, and a river crossing fee of US$6 per ton is charged, the annual operating income of the canal can reach more than US$3.7 billion. The Nigerian government believes that the construction of the canal is a “profitable business” that will bring great vitality to the economies of Nigeria and Central America. It is estimated that the operating income of the canal will exceed the country’s gross domestic product by more than one time.
The designers of the canal plan calculated that, taking the freight route from New York to Japan as an example, large and super-large freighters cannot pass through the Panama Canal and Suez Canal, and the route length exceeds 24,000 kilometers, which takes 36 days. If it passes through the future Nicaragua Canal, its voyage will be shortened to 17,000 kilometers and it can arrive 11 days earlier. The canal, which accommodates much larger commercial vessels than the Panama Canal—passing 250,000-tonne tankers and container ships—could capture a 4.5 percent share of global seaborne cargo traffic and thus contribute to Nicaragua’s gross domestic product. (GDP) doubled.
Still, the project has drawn skepticism from critics of the Nicaraguan government, who see it as a fantasy. In Nicaragua, 47% of the population lives below the poverty line, and there is not even enough money to drain the stagnant water in many urban areas of the capital Managua for more than two weeks. In addition, despite the booming world trade, many people question whether the small size of Central America really needs two canals. But Ortega shrugged off the criticism: “Now we are convinced that the time has come to realize our dreams.”
It is worth noting that another hotly discussed Asian canal has quietly surfaced in recent years.
Connecting the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the Strait of Malacca, known as the “Gibraltar of the East” and the “Strategic Corridor”, has seen increasing security risks in recent years. First, piracy is rampant. Anti-terrorism officials in some Asian and Western countries are worried that terrorists may imitate pirates’ modus operandi and launch attacks on international maritime traffic lines;
The problem of over-reliance on the “throat waterway” of the Strait of Malacca has attracted the attention of relevant countries. In this context, a plan to replace the Strait of Malacca – the “Kara Canal Project” has entered people’s field of vision.
Thailand’s “Kara Canal Project” refers to the excavation of a canal connecting the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea at the Kra Isthmus of Thailand. The Kra Isthmus is a long and narrow strip in southern Thailand. It connects the Indochina Peninsula in the north and the Malay Peninsula in the south. The area about 400 kilometers south of the isthmus is the territory of Thailand. The narrowest part is more than 50 kilometers and the widest part is about 190 kilometers. Gulf (Gulf of Siam), then to the east is the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean; to the west is the Andaman Sea, and to the west enters the Indian Ocean. The proposed Kra Canal is a two-way channel canal with a total length of 102 kilometers, a width of 400 meters and a water depth of 25 meters, across the Kra Isthmus of Thailand. The initial calculation of the construction period and cost will take 10 years and cost 28 billion US dollars. If unconventional construction is used, such as the use of nuclear energy technology, it will take 7 years and an investment of 36 billion US dollars.
Thailand is strategically located in the center of the Indochina Peninsula, and is also an important gateway to the Mekong region and South Asia. Historically, Thailand had the idea of building the Kra Canal on the Kra Isthmus. Due to limited manpower and material resources, the Kra Canal plan has not been implemented.
Thailand’s “Kara Canal Plan” is regarded as the “Oriental Panama Canal” in the future.
However, the plan encountered great resistance before it could be implemented. In early 2003, the Thai government authorized a Hong Kong company to conduct a feasibility study on the Kra Isthmus Canal project. The company expects the project to cost as much as $25 billion. Such a huge sum of money cannot be afforded by Thailand alone.
At the same time, some neighboring countries with relevant interests are opposed to this due to fear of diversion of customers. “The excavation of the Kra Canal will bring certain economic shocks to these countries, which may be fatal.”
However, the proposed Kra Canal has fast, convenient, safe and huge economic prospects. According to relevant research, after the opening of the Kra Canal, ships can pass from the South China Sea to the Gulf of Thailand, then pass through the canal, enter the Andaman Sea, and go straight out of the Indian Ocean without having to go through the Strait of Malacca. time, large tankers can save $300,000 per voyage. At that time, the Kra Canal will become the largest canal in Asia, and ASEAN, China, Japan and even the world’s trading bodies will benefit from the opening of the Kra Canal.