Christmas supplies in UK at risk as Panama Canal shipping route faces worst drought on record

7 December 2023, 08:35

Christmas gifts could be delayed due to the Panama Canal experiencing the worst drought on record.
Christmas gifts could be delayed due to the Panama Canal experiencing the worst drought on record. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Christmas supplies in the UK are at risk as the Panama Canal shipping route faces the worst drought on record.

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Dozens of containers ship carrying gifts and festive items are facing a delay of up to four-weeks due to water levels continuing to fall in the channel.

The congestion is expected to have a ripple effect across the supply chain and could even impact Christmas deliveries, experts said.

They warned that delays would go on for "some time to come", with fears that the restrictions could go into 2025.

The new iPhone, TVs, clothes and tree lights are among the supplies that are being held up.

Grains and fuels also being delayed, which could result in an increase in the cost of food and energy prices.

Read more: Silent night?: Christmas crackers to lose their 'crack' in bid to help the environment

Read more: Fire tears through world-famous Christmas Market as tourists forced to evacuate

Cargo ships wait at the entrance of the Panama Canal at Panama Bay off Panama City.
Cargo ships wait at the entrance of the Panama Canal at Panama Bay off Panama City. Picture: Getty

Nearly 80 ships trying to pass through the canal have been met with significant delays.

It typically takes 8 to 10 hours to transit through, but ships are now waiting one to two weeks in line.

Only 24 ships have been able to make the journey each day since November 7 - 14 less than the usual numbers using the route daily.

Some ships have instead taken huge detours to go through the Suez Canal in Egypt.

Panama Canal
Panama Canal. Picture: Alamy

Steven Paton, director of the Physical Monitoring Program at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, said water levels were at their lowest in almost 100 years.

"This is now our third extreme water deficit in the past 25 years. That is a huge red flag," he told the Mirror.

David Jinks, who is head of consumer research at delivery firm ParcelHero, said: "The result could be shortages of goods and increased prices.

"There will be a significant impact on a range of products typically carried on the canal in containers, including TVs, mobile phones, exercise bikes, PCs, Christmas sweaters and tree lights."

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