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The Seavigour oil tanker (2017).jpg
A Suezmax oil tanker, Seavigour, in 2017
General characteristics
Tonnage: typically 160,000 DWT
Length: 400 m (1,300 ft) (maximum)
Beam: 50 m (164 ft) (maximum)
Height: 68 m (223 ft) (maximum)
Draft: 20.1 m (66 ft) (maximum)
Two ships moored at El Ballah during a Suez Canal transit
Post-deepening of the Suez Canal, larger ships pass through the canal – in this case, a capesize bulk carrier approaches the Egyptian-Japanese Friendship Bridge
Comparison of bounding box of Suezmax with some other ship sizes in isometric view

"Suezmax" is a naval architecture term for the largest ship measurements capable of transiting the Suez Canal in a laden condition, and is almost exclusively used in reference to tankers. The limiting factors are beam, draft, height (because of the Suez Canal Bridge), and length[1] (even though the canal has no locks).


The current channel depth of the canal allows for a maximum of 20.1 metres (66 ft) of draft,[2] meaning that a few fully laden supertankers are too deep to fit through, and either have to unload part of their cargo to other ships ("transhipment") or to a pipeline terminal before passing through, or alternatively avoid the Suez Canal and travel around Cape Agulhas instead. The canal was deepened in 2009 from 18 to 20 metres (59 to 66 ft).

The typical deadweight of a Suezmax ship is about 160,000 tons and typically has a beam (width) of 77.49 m (254.2 ft). Also of note is the maximum head room—"air draft"—limitation of 68 m (223.1 ft), resulting from the 70 metres (230 ft) height above water of the Suez Canal Bridge. Suez Canal Authority produces tables of width and acceptable draft, which are subject to change.[1] From 2010, the wetted surface cross sectional area of the ship is limited by 1006 m2, which means 20.1 metres (66 ft) of draft for ships with the beam no wider than 50.0 m (164.0 ft) or 12.2 metres (40 ft) of draft for ships with maximum allowed beam of 77.5 metres (254 ft).[3]

The similar terms Panamax, Malaccamax, and Seawaymax are used for the largest ships capable of fitting through the Panama Canal, the Strait of Malacca and Saint Lawrence Seaway, respectively. The term "Chinamax" refers to vessels able to use a number of harbours while fully laden. "Capesize" refers to bulk carriers too big to pass through the Suez Canal—and needing to go around the Cape of Good Hope—but recent dredging means many Capesize vessels can use the canal. Plans to deepen the draft to 70 feet (21 m) could lead to a redefinition of the Suezmax specification, as happened to the Panamax specification after deepening and widening of the Panama Canal.

Aframax is a freight rating, not a geographic routing limiter, for tankers are those with a capacity of 80,000 tonnes deadweight (DWT) to 120,000 DWT.

Container ships[edit]

The maximum allowed length of vessels transiting the Suez Canal is 400 meters. As of 2020, the largest container ships in service all have a length of (close to) 400 meters, and a beam and draft that fit just within the limits of the canal.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "SCA - Rules of Navigation". Retrieved 2020-03-19.
  2. ^ "Egypt's Suez canal H1 revenue, traffic up; upgrade helps". Reuters Africa. Thomson Reuters ( 26 July 2010. Retrieved 26 March 2011.
  3. ^ Suez Canal Authority - Beam and Draught Table Archived 2013-06-04 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Park, Nam Kyu; Suh, Sang Cheol (2019-05-06). "Tendency toward Mega Containerships and the Constraints of Container Terminals". Journal of Marine Science and Engineering. 7 (5): 131. doi:10.3390/jmse7050131.

External links[edit]