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Maersk avoids Panama Canal disruption by shifting cargo to rail

Global shipping giant Maersk has announced adjustments to its Oceania-Americas (OC1) service in response to ongoing water restrictions at the Panama Canal. Facing reduced vessel capacity and weight limitations due to drought-impacted Gatun Lake levels, Maersk has introduced a “land bridge" solution to minimize disruptions for its customers.

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The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has implemented restrictions on the number and weight of ships permitted to transit the canal, hindering traditional routing for several Maersk vessels.

To navigate this challenge, Maersk is splitting its OC1 service into two distinct loops, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

Pacific vessels will now turn at Balboa, Panama, discharging cargo destined for Latin America and North America before loading cargo for Australia and New Zealand. Atlantic vessels will operate similarly, turning at Manzanillo, Panama, and swapping cargo between Oceania and the Americas.

The crucial gap will be bridged by rail transportation across the 80-kilometre stretch of Panama, creating a „land bridge” for efficient cargo movement.

“We understand that any delays can have ripple effects within your supply chains,” Maersk acknowledged in its announcement. “Our utmost priority is ensuring minimal disruption, and this land bridge solution is designed to keep your cargo moving as smoothly as possible.”

While northbound OC1 vessels stopping in Philadelphia and Charleston will encounter no delays, some minor delays are anticipated for southbound shipments.