Antigua and Barbuda, which heavily relies on imports from abroad, has not yet experienced the repercussions of the drought impacting the Panama Canal – a vital global shipping route.
The drought has significantly reduced the number of ships that can navigate through the Canal, posing a threat to 40 percent of worldwide cargo ship traffic.
Lionel Max Hurst, Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office, acknowledged the potential global implications for Antigua and Barbuda.
However, he noted that the country has yet to observe any tangible effects.
, “In Antigua and Barbuda’s case, I don’t think the impact has been felt. We have not yet recorded such an impact. We saw the Port Manager this week and there was no indication from him that this is taking place,” Hurst said.
Hurst emphasized that, although the current impact on Antigua and Barbuda’s shipments is minimal, it’s likely that the situation will eventually lead to shipment disruptions for the country.
Many ships are facing delays at the Panama Canal due to diminished water levels caused by El Niño and climate change.
This congestion concerns the global economy, especially for American businesses, as approximately 40 percent of US container traffic traverses this critical trade pathway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The growing traffic jam is resulting in elevated shipping costs and logistical delays.
In response to water conservation efforts, canal authorities have instituted restrictions, allowing only 32 daily ships to pass through, down from the usual average of 36.
Vessel weight limitations have also been enforced, given that around 50 million gallons of water are required to navigate each ship through the locks, with only partial recycling.
Normally, up to 90 ships awaiting entry to the canal, yet this week, the number has exceeded 120.
At times, the count has even reached 160 ships in idle queuing. This congestion compounds the global supply chain bottlenecks stemming from events like the Russian-Ukraine conflict and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite Panama typically being known for its high rainfall and lengthy rainy season extending from May to late December, the canal region is currently experiencing one of its driest years in over a century of record-keeping, according to climate change experts.