The Panama Canal, which handles more than 200 million metric tons of cargo a year, opened today after rain forced the first closure of the waterway since 1989.
The 80 kilometer (50-mile) canal, connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, opened after 17 hours, the Panama Canal Authority said in an e-mailed statement today. Ships were stopped yesterday after the main river and lake used by vessels reached record levels.
The canal last closed when the U.S. invaded the Central American nation to oust then-President Manuel Noriega. Shutting the waterway obliges ships to sail around the tip of South America, resulting in longer trips and higher costs.
The length of the delay should mean no impact for shipping, Amrita Sen, a London-based analyst with Barclays Capital, said by phone today. Daily rates to hire panamax ships, the largest carriers of bulk commodities such as coal and iron ore that can fit the canal’s locks, were little changed at $19,028, according to the Baltic Exchange in London.
The canal, first transited in 1914, is used by about 14,000 ships a year and employs 9,000 people, according to the Panama Canal Authority. Ships carry about 90 percent of world trade, handling 7.7 billion tons of cargo in 2008, according to the Round Table of International Shipping Associations.