The Suez Canal is a 120-mile-long artificial waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez and dividing Africa and Asia.
It was constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869 and officially opened on 17 November 1869.
The canal is the world’s longest without locks to interrupt traffic. It connects bodies of water at differing altitudes.
The passage enables more direct shipping between Europe and Asia, eliminating the need to sail-round Africa and cutting voyage times by days, weeks or months.
A quarter-mile-long Japanese-owned container ship en route from China to Europe has been grounded in the canal since Tuesday.
The Suez Canal Authority (SCA) said it had lost the ability to steer amid high winds and a dust storm.
A growing number of tankers were gathering near the entrance to the canal on Wednesday morning unable to pass through due to the blockage.
Nearly 12% of global trade, around one million barrels of oil, and approximately 8% of liquefied natural gas pass through the canal each day.
Experts say there are virtually no alternatives to the Suez Canal for shipping goods from Asia to Europe.
This means the blockage could delay materials for European products.