The average wait time for unbooked ships at the Panama Canal has increased by 44% to 59% in the last month due to a prolonged drought and resulting restrictions on ships’ passage and draft. To conserve water, the Panama Canal Authority has limited the number of ships allowed to pass daily, causing bottlenecks and delays. In August, the average waiting time for transit was over 8 days for southbound ships and nearly 9.5 days for northbound ships, compared to around 5.5 days and 6.5 days in July. The backlog of vessels has decreased to 117 from a peak of over 160 in early August. The restrictions are expected to last another 10 months.
While there has been a slight increase in rainfall over the past two months, it has not been enough to alleviate the drought or raise water levels in the canal. Experts predict that water levels in the Panama Canal will remain low for months to come. The canal handles about 5% of all world trade, and the delays and rerouting of ships have resulted in higher freight tariffs. The Panama Canal Authority has implemented measures to mitigate the effects of the drought and ensure that the canal remains open for trade.
Overall, the prolonged drought in Panama has led to increased wait times and restrictions on ships’ passage at the Panama Canal. The bottleneck has caused delays, higher freight tariffs, and rerouting of ships. While there has been a slight increase in rainfall, water levels in the canal remain low and the drought is expected to continue for at least another 10 months. The Panama Canal Authority is taking measures to address the situation and ensure that the canal remains open for trade.