On the busiest day, 162 ships were waiting

The Panama Canal waiting list has been growing rapidly in the past month. Because of the drought, fewer ships can sail through the canal this summer. The Panama Canal is an important hub for 180 maritime trade routes. About 6 percent of all world trade passes through the canal.

Last week, there were no less than 162 ships waiting, far more than at the beginning of July, when there were 90. On Monday, the queue length decreased slightly, to 136 ships, perhaps because the skippers chose alternate routes.

The Panama Canal is an 80-kilometer waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans through a series of locks. The ship’s passage uses about 200 million liters of fresh water from Gatun Lake. This water is transported – with the ship – through the locks and then discharged into the sea.

Due to the constant drought, the water level of the lake is very low. Last weekend, the water was 24.3 meters high, which is normally 26 metres. Since July, the level has fallen more than 1.5 meters below the average (the middle value) between 1990 and 2023.

That is why the director of the canal, Autoridad del Canal de Panama (ACP), decided at the end of July that instead of 36, only 32 ships would be allowed to pass. The ACP also limited the maximum allowed ships’ tonnage.

Without the Panama Canal, ships traveling from east to west of the American continent would have had to circumnavigate the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile.

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Denton Watson

"Friend of animals everywhere. Evil twitter fan. Pop culture evangelist. Introvert."

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