Suez Canal: one of the world’s most heavily used shipping routes in numbers

The 193km Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe

CORRECTION / A handout picture released by the Suez Canal Authority on March 24, 2021 shows the Taiwan-owned MV Ever Given (Evergreen), a 400-metre- (1,300-foot-)long and 59-metre wide vessel, lodged sideways and impeding all traffic across the waterway of Egypt's Suez Canal. A giant container ship ran aground in the Suez Canal after a gust of wind blew it off course, the vessel's operator said on March 24, 2021, bringing marine traffic to a halt along one of the world's busiest trade routes.

 / AFP / Suez CANAL / - / == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / Suez Canal" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==
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A skyscraper-sized ship became wedged across Egypt's Suez Canal on Tuesday, blocking all traffic in the vital waterway.

The 220,000-tonne Ever Given cargo ship was later partially refloated allowing ships to pass through the key trade route, port agent GAC and witnesses reported on Wednesday.

The vessel was hit by sandstorms and 40-knot (74kph) winds on Tuesday, blowing it off course.

Here are a few facts about the Suez Canal, one of the world’s busiest waterways and a vital source of foreign currency for Egypt.

The 193km Suez Canal is the quickest sea route between Asia and Europe.

The canal separates the African continent from Asia and provides the shortest sea route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. It is one of the world's most heavily used shipping lanes.

The first canal was dug under the reign of Senausret III, Pharaoh of Egypt (1887-1849 BCE) linking the Mediterranean Sea in the north with the Red Sea in the south via the river Nile and its branches.

Connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea, the new artificial waterway was planned by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. It took 10 years to complete and it opened in November 1869.

Egypt nationalised the canal in 1956, prompting an invasion by shareholders Britain and France, along with Israel.

The Suez Crisis ended only after Egypt sank 40 ships in the canal and the United States, Soviet Union and United Nations intervened, forcing Britain, France and Israel to withdraw.

The state-owned Suez Canal Authority was established in July 1956 and runs the waterway.

In June 1967, Egypt and other Arab countries fought Israel, with Israeli troops advancing to the east bank of the Suez Canal before a ceasefire was agreed.

The canal was badly damaged in fighting and, with opposing forces encamped on either side, remained closed until after the 1973 war.

Egypt regained full control of the canal after the 1973 war and it was reopened in June 1975.

In 2015 Egypt extended the Suez Canal, which the canal authority said will increase annual revenue.