As one of the most famous commercial trading routes in the world grapples with prolonged dry weather, consumer goods may inevitably be delayed and more expensive.
The Panama Canal, which is responsible for moving 80% of global trade, is working on implementing practices to improve water efficiency by researching long-term solutions to climate change after being hit by a drought between 2019 and 2020 Is.
However, the recurrence and severity of the current drought has no historical precedent, officials announced earlier this month.
The canal’s vice president of operations told CBS that water levels in the lakes the canal relies on are now “near their minimum”.
The Panama Canal Authority has imposed restrictions on the number of ships passing through the canal for at least the next ten months as a direct result of low water levels in Gatun Lake, one of the three locks that make up the canal. ,
Restrictions imposed earlier this year have led to a backlog of ships waiting to pass, Reuters reports. In the wake of the obstruction, ships have been forced to lighten their load or find alternative routes.
The ACP opened two more passage slots per day for non-booked vessels after a traffic jam of 160 vessels was reported earlier in the month.
ACP announced on Tuesday that instead of offering the standard 23 booking slots for Panamax lock entry, they will offer only 14 booking slots, up from 10 slots for super-sized vessels and 4 for regular-sized vessels. Must have become
Ships traveling through Neopanamax locks will not be affected by the measurement change.
Till Friday night, 64 booked and 68 unbooked ships are in the queue waiting for transit. The average wait time for unbooked operations this month is 9 to 11 days.
Shipping companies have expressed concern that the delay could impact global commerce if the drought continues. Notably, the Danish company Maersk which is the largest single user of the canal, CBS reported.
Managing director Antonio Dominguez said he worries a prolonged drought could lead to shipping delays and cost overruns, potentially affecting Christmas goods and other consumer goods and making things “more expensive”.
“Everywhere, climate change is affecting global commerce and we need to do something about it,” Dominguez shared with CBS.
What is the Panama Canal?
According to the ACP, the Panama Canal is a channel or transoceanic highway that connects North America and South America by water.
This canal extends for 50 miles connecting both the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. The ACP said on an average it takes 8 to 10 hours to cross the canal by ship.
The canal works through a lock system, or compartments with entrances and exits. “Water Locks” raise the ship from any ocean to the level of Gatun Lake, which is 26 meters above sea level.
According to the ACP, each set of locks is named after the town where it was built, Gatun on the Atlantic side and Pedro Miguel and Miraflores on the Pacific.
The gravity of Gatun Lake helps to raise and lower ships at each set of locks.
The ACP pointed out that water flows into the locks through the main sewer system, which extends from the side walls and the central wall to the bottom of the lock chambers.
The dream of connecting the two oceans through the Isthmus of Panama dates back to the early sixteenth century.
It was not until 1880 that the French Universal Company of Panama’s Interoceanic Canal took the initiative to make the dream a reality. The work was abandoned after nine years.
The United States did not begin work on the canal until 1904. Since its opening in 1914, 1.1 million transits have taken place along the Panama Canal route.
The US, China and Japan are the top three countries using the canal in 2020 based on cargo flows from data collected by the ACP.
Panama Canal’s future uncertain amid climate change
As the planet grapples with extreme weather and rising sea levels and the climate crisis continues, the canal’s long-term viability is at stake.
“We depend on the climate, so this issue of climate change is real for us,” canal administrator Ricorte Vasquez Morales told CBS.
According to the ACP, in an effort to address the current challenges with proactive measures, canal authorities are working on managing salt water intrusion into the Gatun Reservoir, a vital water source for more than 50% of the country’s population.
The ACP announced in July that the canal has also maintained a draft of 44 feet over the past few months in an effort to mitigate unpredictable weather patterns and ensure reliable and sustainable service.
The ACP pointed out that conservation of water basins, forest cover and exploring the possibility of developing a logistics corridor to diversify cargo handling options within the country are some of the environmental initiatives that the canal authority will also prioritize.
“We have successfully operated the canal like the Panamanians, expanding the locks and ensuring reliability. Now, in this third phase, as we shape the canal for the future, we are keen to identify the best opportunities for Panama under the current circumstances,” shared Vasquez.