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Dramatic Reduction in Panama Canal Queue: Significant Changes in Maritime Trade

The Panama Canal, a vital route for maritime trade, has undergone a notable transformation. Recent data from the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) reveals that the queue of waiting ships has been halved from the historical average since the canal’s expansion in 2016. This phenomenon highlights the dramatic shift in maritime exchanges in the Western Hemisphere in recent months.

According to the ACP, currently, only 45 ships await transit, precisely 50% less than the average of the last eight years. Last August, during the peak canal congestion, more than 160 ships were waiting, leading authorities to announce restrictions that would last for months, prompting the shipping industry to seek alternative routes massively.

For ships waiting for a northbound journey today, the wait will be extended. ACP data indicates that non-booked vessels heading north wait an average of 15.1 days, while those heading south wait around 3.6 days.

The ACP has increased daily transits to 24 this month after weeks of non-stop rains. This measure replaces the previous announcement forecasting 20 daily transits for January and 18 for February. Restrictions have been in place for over six months in response to challenges posed by unusually low water levels in Gatun Lake, in the middle of the canal, due to persistent drought.

In conclusion, the dramatic decrease in the Panama Canal queue reflects the challenges faced by the maritime industry. The combination of restrictions due to weather conditions and the search for alternative routes has significantly changed the dynamics of maritime transport in the region. Although the current situation shows improvements with the increase in daily transits, it is essential to monitor how these changes will impact the industry’s long-term logistical decisions.

Source: Panama Canal Authority