A severe drought is threatening shipping on the vital Panama Canal, which is responsible for moving 40% of the world’s cargo ship traffic. About two-thirds of the canal’s traffic is either headed for — or leaving — the United States.
The canal, a linchpin connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is renowned for its ability to save time and billions of dollars by offering ships a shortcut around the tip of South America. But the Panama Canal system depends on lakes whose levels are now “close to the minimum,” said Boris Moreno, vice president of operations for the canal.
The region home to the canal has had an unprecedented dry season, leading to a significant decline in water levels within the canal, which relies on fresh water to operate. As a result, the canal’s daily operations have been disrupted, with the number of vessels passing through each day reduced from 36 to 32. That has caused delays and traffic congestion at sea.