Christmas supplies in America are threatened as vital Panama Canal shipping ... trends now

Christmas supplies in America are threatened as vital Panama Canal shipping ... trends now
Christmas supplies in America are threatened as vital Panama Canal shipping ... trends now

Christmas supplies in America are threatened as vital Panama Canal shipping ... trends now

The vital Panama Canal shipping route has suffered its worst drought ever, threatening Christmas supplies in America.

The water levels have seen a significant drop, with ships struggling to pass through.

The Panama Canal Authority has slowly decreased the number of vessels allowed to pass since August from 36 to 32 per day to address the issue.

It plans to bring the number down further to 18 by February through monthly reductions.

Weight and depth limits have also been put in place, so that smaller shops and those holding cargo can use the 50-mile shipping route.

Low water levels outside the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal on November 3 this year

Low water levels outside the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal on November 3 this year

The locks of the Panama Canal are photographed last Saturday as drought conditions continue

The locks of the Panama Canal are photographed last Saturday as drought conditions continue

'It is the worst situation since the middle of last century,' Everstream Analytics chief meteorologist Jon Davis told FOX Weather.

He warned that the Panama Canal plays a vital role in global commerce by allowing the transportation of a significant amount of goods, and an impact would be felt across all sectors. 

There were warning signs as early as August when more than 200 ships were stuck on both sides of the Panama Canal after authorities capped the number of crossings because of a serious drought. 

The large vessels, which were thought to be carrying millions of dollars worth of goods, were locked in a traffic jam, with some waiting for weeks to cross. 

Vessel-tracking data highlighted the extent of the issue, with hundreds of ships, mainly bulk cargo or gas carriers, seen waiting near entrances to the canal on the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

The number of daily transits through the canal was capped at 32 by water authorities in a bid to conserve water.

Nearly 80 ships aiming to pass through the canal have been met with significant delays. Instead of the eight to ten hours it typically takes to transit through, ships are now waiting one to two weeks in line. 

Unprecedented conditions have seen water levels in the vital 50-mile shipping route connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans fall to their lowest since the mid-1900s.

Dozens of massive container ships carrying presents and festive items including Apple's new iPhones, TVs, exercise bikes, clothes and tree lights are experiencing delays of up to four weeks – and the crisis could yet last for several months.

Shipping vessels are seen queuing off of the Panama Canal on Monday. The average wait time in the queue has risen from 4.3 days on November 7 to 11.7 this month, official data revealed

Shipping vessels are seen queuing off of the Panama Canal on Monday. The average wait time in the queue has risen from 4.3 days on November 7 to 11.7 this month, official data revealed

The Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal are pictured on November 3 this year

The Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal are pictured on November 3 this year

Low water levels outside the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal on November 3 this year

Low water levels outside the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal on November 3 this year 

Congestion in the canal could have a wider impact across the global supply chain - with experts warning that Christmas in the UK and Europe could be impacted.

The cost of food and energy prices could also rise because grains and fuels are among other major supplies transported through the canal now experiencing delays.

Experts have warned that the disruptions at the canal are likely to remain in place for 'some time to come', with some fearing the restrictions could continue into 2025.

Some companies have paid as much as $4million to move to the front of the queue and bypass wait times, Fox News reported.

This is compared to an average auction price of about $173,000 just one year ago.

Economist Inga Fechner of ING Research told Bloomberg: 'It's getting more costly, and looking for alternative routes will increase costs and maybe also weigh on prices in the end.'

The average wait time in the queue has risen from 4.3 days on November 7 to 11.7 this month, Panama Canal Authority data revealed.

Before the vital shipping route experienced delays, some 38 ships passed

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