(Globe and Mail) The $6.9-billion expansion of the Panama Canal might have overcome leaks, labour disputes and financial hurdles, but appears to have run into a mightier foe: Mother Nature.
El Nino has caused a drought in the region and reduced water levels in the lake that makes up about half the 77-kilometre water route, forcing the canal’s operators to limit the draft of a ship – the hull’s depth – that can sail the trade route connecting Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
The restrictions cast a shadow over the opening of the expanded canal, which Panama Canal Authority has pushed back – again – to June.
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The expansion, which includes wider locks and deeper channels, comes amid a tough year for the world’s shipping companies. There are too many ships at a time of slowing growth in consumer and industrial demand. Charter rates for ships that carry containers and bulk commodities are at multiyear lows.