Why is the Suez Canal so important?

About 12% of global trade passes through the 193km (120-mile) canal, which connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea and provides the shortest sea link between Asia and Europe.

An alternative route, around the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tip of Africa, can take two weeks longer.

According to data from Lloyd's List, the blockage is holding up an estimated $9.6bn (£7bn) of goods each day - or $400m an hour.

Mr Rabie estimated that Egypt was losing up to $14m in revenue each day that the canal was closed.

He said Egypt was grateful to the US, China and the United Arab Emirates for offers of help.

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