The Suez Canal, one of the world's most important artificial waterways, remained blocked on Thursday after a container ship wedged on Tuesday.
The Ever Given, a Panama-flagged ship that carries cargo between Asia and Europe, ran aground in the narrow, man-made canal dividing continental Africa from the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. This resulted in a traffic jam across the Suez Canal.
Several ships carrying goods and oil have been delayed due to the blockage. Photographs taken from satellites show the wedged container ship blocking the narrow waterway.
Grounded vessel in the Suez Canal. Satellite Image Planet Labs
Suez is the quickest sea-routes between Asia and Europe. However, an extended blockage is likely to cause delayed delivery of supplies.
Local reports suggest that strong winds may have caused the accident. However, the containers on the ship have not sunk yet. The clearing operations are also affected due to continuous sandstorms.
According to a Reuters report, shipping companies will have to reroute their ships if the obstruction is not cleared in a day.
The alternative route, via the Cape of Good Hope, might take additional seven days for vessels to reach their destinations.
Satellite image shows grounded vessel in the Suez Canal. (Image: European Space Agency)
Tugboats were deployed on Wednesday in attempts to clear the waterway, but there is no clarity on when the route will be cleared.
"The Suez Canal will not spare any efforts to ensure the restoration of navigation and to serve the movement of global trade," the Associated Press quoted Lt. Gen. Ossama Rabei, head of the Suez Canal Authority, as saying.
The Suez Canal was opened in 1869 after a decade-long construction. It was revamped in 2014-2015. Parts of the canal were widened and deepened. A 35-km long parallel canal was also constructed.
Suez Canal, before and after the expansion. NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen
Connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, the Suez Canal accounts for roughly 10 per cent of the world's total trade flows.