Be Ready: Looming Supply Chain Crisis Just In Time For Christmas & Beyond

As the holiday shopping season kicks off, a potential supply chain crisis is looming on the horizon, and it’s a situation that demands our attention.

Reports have been pouring in about the dwindling water levels in the Panama Canal, and it’s a cause for serious concern. The shortage of water has compelled the Panama Canal Authority to take drastic measures, reducing the number of ships permitted to traverse its iconic waters. Currently, the authority allows 32 ships to pass through, but they have their sights set on slashing that number to a mere 18 by the time February rolls around.

What’s causing this unsettling scenario? Panama has been grappling with a severe lack of rainfall this year, and it’s taking a toll on the artificial wonder known as Lake Gatun, an integral part of the canal system. In fact, water levels in Lake Gatun have plunged to their lowest point since 1965. It’s a dire situation, to say the least.

“It is the worst situation since the middle of last century,” warns Davis, an expert closely monitoring the situation. And he’s absolutely right to sound the alarm.

The Panama Canal isn’t just any ordinary waterway; it’s a lifeline for global commerce. It plays a pivotal role in facilitating the transportation of an enormous volume of goods that crisscross the world. The repercussions of any disruption in its operations would reverberate across all sectors of the economy.

One might wonder what’s at stake here. Well, it’s not just coal that journeys through these canal waters. Liquefied natural gas (LNG), a vital energy commodity that the U.S. exports worldwide, especially to Asia, is heavily reliant on the canal’s efficient functioning.

But it doesn’t stop there. A multitude of agricultural products relies on this vital passageway, shuttling to and from the U.S. “The canal is a major corridor for container ships, so products coming to the U.S. from China, for example, are being delayed … i.e., the impacts on Santa’s delivery schedule,” Davis quips, highlighting the far-reaching implications.

In a desperate bid to ensure goods reach their destinations on schedule, shipping companies are resorting to ingenious strategies. They’re redistributing cargo across multiple vessels to remain within weight and depth constraints. Some are opting for longer routes, circumnavigating the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Horn, and even the Suez Canal to make ends meet.

But here’s the grim forecast: “No significant improvement is expected in the short-term as rainfall across Panama will be well below normal through the remainder of November,” Davis cautions. To compound the problem, the looming presence of a strengthening El Niño event in the Pacific Ocean casts a long shadow over Panama and the southern portion of Central America, acting as a rain suppressor.

As we head into the dry season later this year and into the first few months of the New Year, prospects for rainfall remain grim. It’s a challenging scenario with no immediate relief in sight, extending into the start of 2024.

“This area will be entering the dry season later this year and into the first few months of the New Year,” he said. “During El Niño events, the dry season tends to start early in Panama and once established, rainfall prospects tend to be poor.”

In the face of this looming crisis, it’s essential that we stay informed and vigilant. The repercussions of a potential supply chain disruption are far-reaching, affecting everything from holiday deliveries to global trade. As we navigate these uncertain waters, preparedness and adaptability will be key to weathering the storm.

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