"If we don't adapt, we are going to die."
Back It Up
Remember the chaos that ensued in 2021, when a cargo ship got stuck, blocking passage through the Suez Canal?
Now, a massive flotilla of ships is currently stuck in the world's worst traffic jam at the Panama Canal — and the end of this new watery pile-up could be at least a few weeks away.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, the famous human-dug canal has more than 200 ships waiting to pass through it as its transit continues to be stymied thanks to the worst drought it's experienced in a century.
The 50-mile-long canal, as the report notes, relies on rainwater to replenish it. When it doesn't rain enough, the authorities that control the canal have to reduce traffic through it to conserve water, and those that are allowed through have to pay higher fees to do so.
Daily traffic is currently capped at 32 ships, which is down from the prior average of about 36 when there's enough water for the canal — which uses more than 50 million gallons of water per day — to operate at full capacity.
As the drought worsened last month, canal administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales said during a press event that traffic restrictions may remain in place until the end of the year and added that it will cost the canal an estimated $200 million in lost revenue.
Beyond the regulatory and financial concerns associated with this massive backup, Vásquez Morales suggested that the drought also illustrates one of the biggest existential threats facing the canal as well.
"We have to find other solutions to remain a relevant route for international trade," he said during the July press summit. "If we don't adapt, we are going to die."
As of right now, the wait to enter the canal on both the Atlantic and Pacific sides is, as the WSJ notes, roughly 20 days, which has led some shipping companies to seek alternative routes while others pay hefty surcharges that will, in turn, make the goods they're transporting cost all the more.
Whichever way you look at it, the situation at the Panama Canal is an absolute quagmire — and with climate change worsening droughts, so, too, will these kinds of issues become increasingly severe.
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