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A container ship transitting


Suezmax is the largest vessel that meets the restrictions of the Suez Canal. The term is most typically used for tankers, as a draught restriction, as there are no locks on the Suez Canal. The canal, however, does have additional restrictions on beam and length, as dictated by traffic conditions, turning bays, and the Suez Canal Bridge.


Principal Dimensions

Imperial Units

  • Draught.......70 feet (53 feet originally)
  • Beam..........230 feet
  • Length........1640 feet
  • Air Draught...223 feet

Metric Units

  • Draught.......22.1 meters (16.0 meters originally)
  • Beam..........70 meters
  • Length........500 meters
  • Air Draught...68 meters

Practical Limitations

Due to the nature of entry and the requirements of maneuverability, the above absolute requirements may be impractical. A typically sized Suezmax vessel would be 900 feet long, 157 feet wide, and draw 53 feet of water (274m x 48m x 16m), corresponding to about 10,000 TEU or 150,000 DWT. Draught limits should be kept conservative, as the confined channel is liable to induce ship squat.

moored shipping awaits traffic

Ship Characteristics

The Suezmax tanker fleet includes a large number of single-hulled vessels. While dredging and development of the canal has increased the size of Suezmax tankers, making larger suezmax vessels possible, this older size is finding increasing utility in accessing coastal oil developments (such as through the Istanbul Straight into the Black Sea).

Alternative Transits

Vessels too large to transit the canal must take an extended route around the Cape of Good Hope (these vessels are known as Capesize). Alternatively, a tanker which is draught-limited may elect to use shore-based pumping and storage facilities to unload a portion of its liquid cargo, transit, and re-load on the opposite end.

Recent Developments

The canal is currently being dredged to allow a depth of 18-20 meters and construction is slated to begin in 2010 to deepen the channel to 22 meters.

See Also

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