CHILE – Holt Logistics Corp. has announced that Panama Canal’s current slot reductions and extended ship delays will not greatly impact Chilean Fruit as their slots are reserved with time and with reliable container lines. 

Holt Logistics is expecting the first shipment of Chilean cherries, blueberries, and grapes to come in right after Christmas, and Holt says exporters are concerned. 

“They have appointments, but they load whenever the fruit is ready, so I know they have reached out to Panama Canal authorities already to get preference because it is fruit products,” says Eric Holt, chief commercial officer of Holt Logistics Corp. 

January and February are the peak months for Chilean shipments, and Holt says it is yet to be determined if they can insert more tonnage to keep up with the shipping supply.

However, despite the assurance by Holt, a report from suggests that if enough ships do not divert from the Panama Canal to offset the drop-in reservation slots, the number of ships without reservations rises — as does wait time.

Pacific-to-Atlantic (northbound) transits showed a sharp rise in wait time in November for ships without reservations, coinciding with cuts to reservation slots. 

“The average wait time was nine days on Wednesday, more than triple the average at the beginning of the month,” outlines the report.  “The maximum wait time was 24.9 days on Wednesday, more than quadruple what it was in early November.”

Alternative routes

Holt, however, countered this explaining that traditional trading lines that come from Southeast Asia are putting more tonnage on services that arrive through the Suez Canal. 

“For refrigerated products, Cool Carriers is looking to go south around South America which adds around seven days more transit,” revealed Holt. 

“These cost more in fuel, but they do save the canal charges so it’s kind of a wash in terms of cost, it is however a week delay for the fruit.”

The cost per container will be higher than usual as all container lines are placing surcharges to go through the Panama Canal. 

If the situation in the canal gets worse, there is a probability that all products will have to get off the ship on one side of the canal and go through the land bridge via truck. 

“Nevertheless, products will arrive at our ports and warehouses regardless of if it’s a week late,” assured Holt. “We will handle them in the quickest, most effective way possible.”

As Panama Canal restrictions worsened, wait times for vessels without reservations increased during November. reports that in response to drought conditions, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) cut the number of daily reservation slots from 32 at the beginning of November to 24 currently. Slots will drop to 22 on Friday, then to 18 by Feb. 1.

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