Source: Suez Canal Authority.
Tonnage and Number of Transits, Suez Canal, 1975-2013
The number of ships transiting and the tonnage handled by the Suez Canal underline two subsequent trends. From the 1980s up to 2002, the number of transits was in net decline while the tonnage handled was steadily increasing. This reflected the application of economies of scale, particularly in container shipping, as less ships transited roughly the same amount of cargo. The average net tonnage per transit increased from about 13,500 tons in 1980 to 33,000 tons in 2002.
After 2002, as global trade was booming, particularly between Asia and Europe, so did the number of transits. The tonnage handled more than doubled with net tonnage per transit surging from 33,000 tons to 42,500 tons in 2008, implying that economies of scale were also taking place. The global economic slowdown that began in 2008 had a substantial impact on the traffic handled by the Suez Canal with traffic and tonnage down by about 25% between 2008 and 2009. By 2013, traffic was back to pre crisis levels and net tonnage per transit surpassed 55,000 tons. However, the tonnage handled by the Suez Canal appears to be peaking and it remains to be see which trades will be able in the future to general additional cargo.