No Respite For Panama Canal Delays

November 20, 2023

No Respite For Panama Canal Delays

Delays at the Panama Canal have been worsening during recent weeks, as the record breaking drought continues to lead to large queues and waiting times.

In normal conditions, around 37-38 ships pass through the waterway every day, but that number was reduced to around 30-32 in June, which was the start of huge  congestion issues at the waterway.

The daily passages were subsequently cut to just 22 vessels this month and the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) have suggested that capacity restrictions could see the daily limit cut further to 18 in February.

Drought conditions have worsened since the lack of rainfall between January and April brought the lowest water levels in two decades. A delayed rainy season has added to the crisis and last month was the driest October since records began 73 years ago.

Currently, more than 100 ships are queued to pass and waiting times are in excess of 15 days. The ACP is now holding auctions which allow vessels to jump the queue, with a fee of almost $4 million being recently paid by one shipowner.

The Panama Canal is the only point where container ships can cross the entire continent, and the delays are mostly impacting West Coast services to and from the UK, along with Asian services that travel to and from the US East Coast.

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