More than 200 ships are in a traffic jam outside the Panama Canal, showing we can’t get through a year without big boats getting stuck

A cargo ship sails near the Pedro Miguel Locks on Panama Canal in Panama City, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023.

AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco

More than 200 ships are stuck in a traffic jam outside the Panama Canal. 
An unprecedented draught is causing rare conditions that make it harder for the vessels to pass. 
In the last 3 years, at least one big boat has gotten stuck in a body of water each year. 

More big boats stuck in small canal. 

Over 200 ships are currently stuck in a major traffic jam on either side of the Panama Canal, with some ships trapped for more than three weeks waiting to get through, according to data from project44 reviewed by Insider. 

Most of the vessels that are stuck are bulk cargo ships or gas carriers, according to the “Today” show

The ships are stuck due to an unprecedented drought taking hold in Panama right now, the Wall Street Journal reported. The canal relies on rainwater to replenish its sources, but a lack of rain makes it difficult for boats to cross. 

The Panama Canal Authority has placed a higher premium on the heaviest and largest ships that have to pass, meaning companies are able to transport fewer goods, which could lead to emptier shelves and higher prices, according to data from project44.

The canal typically processes 40% of all US container traffic, Alix Partners reported. The traffic jam is causing a slowdown in consumer goods delivery and is already stoking concerns over the holiday supply chain. Some shippers might experience a supply chain bottleneck and delays in deliveries due to the conditions, according to Alix Partners. 

Authorities have implemented further restrictions, including lowering the number of booking slots for large ships from 23 to 14, according to project44, and lowering the number of ships allowed to pass through the canal from a range of 36-to-34 to 32. 

But the stuck ships should come as no surprise; it’s the third year in a row that the world has marveled at an unfortunate logjam of maritime traffic. 

In the summer of 2021, the Ever Given, a humongous container ship, got stuck in the Suez Canal for six days, blocking one of the world’s most vital shipping routes. 

Less than a year later in March of 2022, the Ever Given’s sister ship, the Ever Forward, got stuck in the Chesapeake Bay for more than a month

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