Suez Canal blockage: Why New Zealand imports could suffer if it's not fixed in 48 hours

An enormous container ship blocking one of the world's busiest waterways could worsen delays of imports to New Zealand.

The 400-metre long 'Ever Given' ship has spent three days stuck in the sand in the Suez Canal between Asia and Europe.

Experts say if it's not fixed within 48 hours, it could hurt New Zealand imports. 

Eight tug boats are working to tow it out, and diggers on the ground have been removing sand from where it's stuck.

Campbell University Maritime Historian Sal Mercogliano says it's a risky job.

"She's really jammed in there pretty good," he says.

"You could conceivably crack the hull, cause an oil spill - but worse, catastrophically crack the vessel in half, which would close the canal for months if not years.

"That cannot happen, because the Suez is a crucial passage for trade between the East and West."

About 30 percent of the world's container ships go through the Suez Canal, and the cargo they carry amounts to 12 percent of the world's trade.

Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation NZ (CBAFF) president Chris Edward says New Zealand may be waiting longer for imports from Europe.

"Those vessels will miss their trans-ship vessels in Asia that bring cargo down to New Zealand, and then that starts to exacerbate the problem," he says.

"It'll be late by one or two weeks - I guess that depends on how long this lasts for."

If it's not fixed in 48 hours, we will be waiting longer for products from Europe to arrive on our shores. 

If you stood it on it's end, the enormous ship would be about as tall as New York's empire state building - almost 400 metres-long.

So that makes for quite the problem when the Suez Canal is just 200 metres wide.

While it's wedged in place, the ship is blocking as many as 50 ships a day getting through this key link between Europe and Asia.

They now face an extra week's long journey around the Horn of Africa to get to their destinations. But some ships are too big to turn around or use other canals - so they've reversed out, anchoring at its entry.

"That tells me they're expecting this to go on for a little longer," Mercogliano says.

It's creating a canal queue of more than 100 cargo ships.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it's monitoring the Suez situation.

It understands "the blockage may further add to congestion in global sea freight" and "this could have flow on effects for sea freight in New Zealand".

One beached-as ship - putting world trade at a standstill.