15 Types of Goods That Ship Through the Panama Canal

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Container ship
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A traffic jam near the Panama Canal is slowing the transport of key products across the globe, and that could result in higher prices for some products later in the year.

Drought conditions that have lingered for several months have forced the Panama Canal Authority to restrict the number of vessels allowed to travel through the canal. As a result, the waiting time to cross through is now about three weeks.

More than 150 ships are currently waiting to continue their journey, and the current restrictions are expected to remain in place through Aug. 21. The slowdown could further stress supply chains and might lead to higher prices for goods like apparel and shoes around the holidays, according to one report.

The Panama Canal is a key passageway for U.S. shippers with destinations in Gulf Coast and East Coast ports. Here is a look at the many types of products that typically ship through the canal. Note that a “long ton” is defined as exactly 2,240 pounds.

1. Petroleum and petroleum products

Oil barrels
noomcpk / Shutterstock.com

Amount shipped southbound (Atlantic to Pacific): 88,170,000 long tons in 2022

Amount shipped northbound (Pacific to Atlantic): 5,712,000 long tons

Total amount shipped: 93,882,000 long tons

Simply put, modern life as we know it could not exist today without petroleum. Some of the products related to petroleum that ship through the Panama Canal include:

  • Asphalt
  • Crude oil
  • Diesel oil
  • Residential fuel oil
  • Gasoline
  • Jet fuel
  • Kerosene

2. Container cargo

Container ship
Avigator Fortuner / Shutterstock.com

Amount shipped southbound (Atlantic to Pacific): 20,549,000 long tons in 2022

Amount shipped northbound (Pacific to Atlantic): 42,617,000 long tons

Total amount shipped: 63,166,000 long tons

A cargo container is used to ship many different types of goods. Some of the largest ships that you see on the ocean are container cargo ships.

3. Grains

Red winter wheat
Ostariyanov / Shutterstock.com

Amount shipped southbound (Atlantic to Pacific): 36,183,000 long tons in 2022

Amount shipped northbound (Pacific to Atlantic): 2,204,000 long tons

Total amount shipped: 38,387,000

Grain shipments are a crucial means of keeping the world fed. Grains that travel through the Panama Canal include:

  • Barley
  • Corn
  • Rice
  • Sorghum
  • Wheat

Other products and commodities

Moving lumber
tvist / Shutterstock.com

Here are some other types of products that make their way through the Panama Canal every year, as measured in long tons:

  1. Animal and vegetable oils and fats: Southbound (286,000 long tons) and northbound (2,264,000 long tons)
  2. Canned and refrigerated foods: Southbound (135,000) and northbound (1,306,000)
  3. Chemicals and petroleum chemicals: Southbound (12,364,000) and northbound (4,123,000)
  4. Coal and coke (the latter of which is a coal byproduct used to make steel): Southbound (11,427,000) and northbound (3,651,000)
  5. Lumber and related products: Southbound (1,055,000) and northbound (1,601,000)
  6. Machinery and equipment: Southbound (1,812,000) and northbound (3,958,000)
  7. Manufactures of iron and steel: Southbound (1,346,000) and northbound (6,053,000)
  8. Miscellaneous minerals: Southbound (114,000) and northbound (6,838,000)
  9. Miscellaneous hazardous cargo: Southbound (2,562,000) and northbound (580,000)
  10. Nitrates, phosphates and potash (which are primarily fertilizers and fertilizer components): Southbound (4,882,000) and northbound (3,930,000)
  11. Ores and metals: Southbound (2,793,000) and northbound (9,020,000)
  12. Other agricultural commodities: Southbound (415,000) and northbound (939,000)

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