Named after the famous Suez Canal, Suezmax are medium to large-sized ships with a deadweight tonnage (DWT) between 120,000 to 200,000. They are the largest marine vessels that meet the restrictions of the Suez, and are capable of transiting the canal in a laden condition. Prior to 1967, the size of suezmax vessels was restricted to 80,000 DWT, but the maximum was increased to 150,000 DWT in 1975. After the further deepening of the Suez Canal from 18 m (60 ft) to 20.1 m (66 ft) in 2009, a suezmax of up to 200,000 DWT or even more can easily pass through it. Future plans of further deepening the canal’s draft to 21.3 m (70 ft) may lead to redefining of suezmax vessels’ specifications in the coming years.
As the Suez Canal has no locks, the major limiting factors for suezmax vessels are the beam, draught, and length. The current depth of the canal allows for a maximum of 20.1 m (66 ft) of draught and 50 m (164 ft) of beam for ships. This means some of fully laden supertankers can’t pass through the Suez channel, and they must discharge part of their cargo to other tankers or to a pipeline terminal in order to traverse the canal. A typical Suezmax vessel would be 275 m (900 ft) in length, 48 m (157 ft) in width, and 16.2 m (53 ft) in draught corresponding to about 150,000 DWT.
Ships passing through Suez Canal
The Suez Canal Authority occasionally brings out updated tables of width and acceptable draft for ships. Currently the permissible limits for suezmax ships are 20.1 m (66 ft) of draught with the beam no wider than 50 m (164.0 ft), or 12.2 m (40 ft) of draught with maximum allowed beam of 77.5 m (254 ft). Due to their design and size, a large number of ports around the world can accommodate suezmax vessels.