Catalyst becomes chokepoint

Bloomberg comments, “For more than a century, the Panama Canal has been a catalyst for consumer goods and raw materials flowing between the Americas, Asia and beyond. Thanks to climate change, it’s now a chokepoint.”

This blog has been watching as reduced water-levels have increasingly constrained daily canal throughput (here and here and here). An increasing number of ocean carriers are rerouting to avoid the Panama Canal altogether (here and here).

Suez would usually be next in line for East Asia to the US East Coast (or reverse). But recent Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping requires comparing drought to drones to Cape of Good Hope gales.

No near-term improvement of Panama Canal flows are likely. December is the start of Central America’s dry season extending through April

December 7 Update: Splash247 reports, “The transit backlog at the interoceanic waterway today numbers just 77 ships, 13 below the average since the 2016 expansion of the locks, and down by more than 50 vessels in the space of just a fortnight. For those in the queue, however, wait times are long, especially for ships waiting for a northbound convoy where average wait times topped out at over 15 days earlier this week and currently stand at 14.5 days.”


December 9 Update: The Financial Times reports, “Simultaneous disruption in the Panama and Suez canals, two vital corridors for global trade, is threatening global supply chains in the run-up to Christmas. Shipowners and importers have warned that a drought in the Panama Canal and a spate of attacks on cargo vessels 11,500km away near the Suez Canal risk constraining traffic ahead of the festive season.” The report also provides a helpful outline of the dilemmas involved in this dual disruption.