Panama Canal delays have shippers mulling freight diversions

Options for cargo owners include longer intermodal routes and alternative lanes like the Suez Canal.

The delays at the canal come after a dry spring combined with the looming El Niño weather pattern put the shipping channel on alert of low water levels at nearby Gatun Lake. The Panama Canal consequently placed restrictions in June to save water by maintaining a draft of 44 feet, or 13.41 meters, for the following months or until significant changes in weather occur. The restrictions are leading to some ocean shipping delays. The Panama Canal Authority reported 120 ships were waiting to transit the canal as of Tuesday, Aug. 22. However, the organization added big ships — those with a capacity of up to 13,000 TEUs — have not been affected by current restrictions, as they are typically limited to just ten crossings a day. To mitigate delays, shippers are already diverting freight or considering their options, logistics providers said.

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