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  • Writer's pictureNorth Shore Democrats of Travis County

Worried about water levels in Lake Travis? The Panama Canal is dangerously low, too

Worried about water levels in Lake Travis and the Highland Lakes? Don’t forget about the Panama Canal. Water levels in the canal have dropped to critical levels, thanks to the worst drought in the canal’s history, according to a new study released by the International Monetary Fund (1).

The 143-year-old canal is the the critical link between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. More than 40 million tons of goods — 5 percent of global maritime trade volumes — pass through the canal monthly, borne by 1,000 ships or so.

Moving goods is taking longer. The canal authority is steadily cutting the number of ships allowed through each day. The normal maximum is 36 per day. In August, that was cut to 32, and in September trimmed again, to 31 (2).

IMF reports that the canal is set to cut shipping to18 ships per day by February.

Thanks to climate change, droughts, floods, tropical storms and other disasters are becoming more common, and pose a serious threat to maritime infrastructure, the IMF study’s authors said.

“Panama’s drought shows how trade disruptions from climate extremes can reverberate around the world,” they said.

IMF reports that the canal’s low levels result from insufficient rainfall at the Gatún Lake, which feeds the canal.

IMF’s data shows that ports in Panama, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Peru, El Salvador, and Jamaica are suffering most from these delays, with 10 percent to 25 percent of their total maritime trade flows affected. But the drought’s effects are felt as far away as Asia, Europe and North America.

“Economies reliant on the canal for trade should prepare for more disruption and delays,” the report reads.

IMF authors of this study are Serkan Arslanalp, Robin Koepke, Alessandra Sozzi, and Jasper Verschuur.




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