There is currently too little water in the Panama Canal, so the first shipping companies have started to impose surcharges. Hapag-Lloyd, for example, has been charging a "Panama Canal Charge (PCC)" of 260 US dollars per container since July 1. Several services between China and the East Coast of North America as well as the US Gulf Coast are affected.
Already since June 1, French carrier CMA CGM has been imposing a similar surcharge of $300 per container for shipments between Northeast Asia/China and the North American East Coast, the U.S. Gulf region and northern Brazil.
The reason for these surcharges is the permanently low water levels in the Panama Canal. Normally, the canal authority allows ships with a draught of up to 15.24 meters to pass through. Now, however, these values have been lowered several times. Since June 13, only ships with a maximum draught of 13.41 meters have been allowed to pass through the canal, and since June 25, the maximum draught has been only 13.26 meters.
So far, no major disruptions have occurred due to this situation. Experienced market observers state that ships are currently not fully loaded and container shipments can therefore be diverted via the Suez Canal. The spot rate on the route between the Far East and the U.S. East Coast has actually increased by 5 percent. However, it is expected that this could change in the coming weeks.
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