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How to Navigate The Latest Supply Chain Challenge: The Panama Canal

Dec 5, 2023 9:31:32 AM


It’s no secret that 2023’s Black Friday brought a welcome wave of excitement for apparel brands leaving them '100 Percent Ecstatic' with the results, as revealed by a DHL Supply Chain executive. However, beneath the surface of the retail rejoice lies a tale of challenges in the global shipping industry, particularly concerning the Panama Canal.

The underlying cause of the canal challenges is a persistent drought linked to El Niño, affecting water levels at Lake Gatun, the vital artificial lake sustaining the canal's lock system. As of Thursday, the lake's depth stood at over 81 feet, nearly five feet below the five-year average.

As a result,  according to Sourcing Journal, The Panama Canal currently faces a backlog, with 110 vessels patiently waiting, including 51 pre-booked and 59 non-booked ships seeking passage. However, the wait times for non-booked vessels have surged dramatically in the past four weeks, reaching an average of 10 days for northbound ships and 11.2 days for southbound vessels.

And the worst part: some companies are paying millions of dollars to jump the line.

In the face of these challenges, many brands are bracing for potential disruptions in the coming months, prompting a strategic exploration of alternative routes to ensure the smooth flow of goods worldwide.

If you are shipping by your apparel trim, digital embellishments,  packaging and identification requirements sea from Asia to the East Coast – or would like to look at production options like Mexico or Guatemala to mitigate your risks,  we’re prepared to help. If you’re a CHARMING customer, please reach out to your rep.

If you’re new to CHARMING and would like to chat about how we can potentially help, send us a note here.


Topics: supply chain