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  • Maggie Mildenberger

The Continuing Impact of the Panama Canal Drought and Estes Express System Down

As we had noted in our port report earlier this week - the practical effects of the drought in Panama on transit through the Canal have been minimal. What delays we are seeing are largely being experienced by bulk and tanker shipments - and this is due to the draft restrictions. Vessels going through the canal are required to be up to 40% lighter than normal, and those restrictions are expected to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

While we had reported in August that there was a significant backlog on either side of the crossing, it seems like in the months since both the Panama Canal Authority and vessels planning to travel through the canal are working together to make sure there are as few delays as possible. While there is still a significant backlog, it compares to backlogs we would see in a “normal” year.

Additionally, we have seen reports of potential of future plans for new dams or diverting other rivers that could help to further alleviate the impacts of the drought on the Canal.


This week kicked off with a rough start for Less-than-Truckload giant Estes Express, who experienced a technology outage due to a cyber-attack on Monday. This outage impacted all their internal network and phone systems, crippling their ability to track and trace shipments. As a result, Audit Logistics proactively placed Estes on a temporary NO LOAD until this issue is resolved, as they are unable to provide the level of documentation and visibility on shipments that we require.

Throughout the week, we have been working with our contacts at Estes to monitor Audit freight that was already moving through the network at the time of the technology outage, and we have observed that freight has still arrived to its destination within the expected timeframe. Their asset-based system continues to work as expected, just without as much monitoring.

Estes sent out an email this morning, October 6th, reporting that they have " made steady progress on bringing many parts of our IT systems back online." This includes bringing the core operation systems online such as online BOLs, updating PRO numbers, and creating manifests. They are working to restart their internal electronic document transfer to provide all documentation, as they are currently working off of Excel files to provide this documentation at the moment.

We will continue to keep an eye on the situation and provide an update when Estes confirms their system is back online.


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