An enormous amount of goods and supplies sold in the US pass through the Panama Canal. Shipments may be a bit late because there’s currently a 21-day wait to make the journey through. There are 154 ships waiting for their turn! The culprit is climate change, as a drought is limiting the water necessary to fill the locks along the canal.
Wait- isn’t climate change causing ocean levels to rise? And isn’t the Panama Canal open to oceans on both ends? You’d think they would have plenty of water, but that’s not how it works. The Panama Canal is 51 miles (82 km) long, and the inner locks are fed by nearby Panamanian lakes. Alhajuela Lake is at its lowest level in years, and the Panama Canal Authority has enacted water conservation measures. The largest ships are the most severely restricted, and a 40% weight limit reduction is leaving some supertankers without the ability to make passage at all.
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Things won’t have to get much worse to make a voyage around South America faster. That route adds 23 days to an ocean trip, but it would cost a lot more in fuel. Another possibility is to offload shipping containers to smaller ships that could obtain permits through the canal, but that would also add cost, and raise the number of waiting ships, too. Read about the Panama Canal traffic jam at Jalopnik.