Catch-22: Inverse water level issues causing shipping delays on the Panama Canal and Rhine River

Along the Panama Canal, water levels are too low. However, along the Rhine River, levels are too high. Now, experts expect delays to continue into next year.

Grain market analysts expect trade disruptions along the Panama Canal to continue in the New Year. Bulk grain shippers are having to sail longer routes and pay higher freight costs to avoid congestion and record high transit fees.

Experts predict restrictions and backlogs along the canal to continue through mid-2024. The region’s wet season may eventually begin to recharge reservoirs and normalize shipping, but that is not expected until at least April or May.

As of now, only 22 daily transits are allowed on the waterway. Normal conditions permit 35. In their last report, the Panama Canal Authority said that number would be further lowered to just 18 in February.

Along the Rhine River in Germany, the complete opposite situation is unfolding due to higher than normal water levels. The country saw excessive rain and melting snow earlier in the week and now vessels do not have enough space to sail under bridges. Parts of the waterway had to close to shipping today and are expected to stay closed until at least Friday.

The Rhine River is a major shipping route for commodities including coal, oil products, and animal feed.

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