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Opened in , the Suez Canal allows ships travelling between the east and the west to avoid the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope, cutting routes by an average of 6, miles. Although the latest generation of huge supertankers cannot traverse the canal fully-laden, it remains one of the world's most important waterways.
The SuMed pipeline runs close to the canal, connecting the Ain Sukhna terminal on the Gulf of Suez to Sidi Kerir on the coast of the Mediterranean, and is just as important as the canal. SuMed transports oil, partly from very large tankers that need to offload some of their cargo before they can fit into the canal. Charges paid by ships travelling between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea are a key source of revenue, along with tourism, exports, and taxes on the earnings of expatriate workers.
Around 2. That's around 5. Not yet. Egyptian officials have repeatedly insisted that the canal and SuMed both remain open. Extra armed troops have been deployed along the length of SuMed — more than doubling the number of sentry points to There are currently 65 ships passing through the canal, up from 40 yesterday. Because oil traders are very nervous that the protests are going to spread beyond Egypt and across the Arabian peninsula — and probably won't be reassured by the dismissal of the Jordanian government today.
Oil prices have been rising for the last couple of months, as the economic recovery pushes up demand and eats into spare capacity. The oil price is also notoriously susceptible to geopolitical uncertainty. Several analysts believe some level of disruption cannot be ruled out. Risk analysis firm Maplecroft suggested today that "concerns persist that the canal may come under attack by militants or even demonstrators".
Barclays Capital, which does not believe the canal itself is under immediate threat, suggested that "some individual ships docked in port might be at risk of attack if the situation deteriorates further".