In recent times, the world has witnessed significant disruptions in two of the most critical maritime passages: the Suez Canal and the Panama Canal. These disruptions have far-reaching implications, extending to distant shores, including the Hawaiian Islands. 

The Suez Canal Disruption and Its Ripple Effect

The Suez Canal, a pivotal passage in the Red Sea, has been facing disruptions due to geopolitical tensions and targeted attacks on shipping vessels. This canal is not just a route; it’s a global trade passage. 12% of worldwide trade, including 30% of the world’s container shipments, passes through it. Insurance companies are either charging extra or outright refusing to cover containers traveling through this high-risk zone. This has led to a significant rerouting of ships. Vessels are now taking a much longer journey around Africa’s Southern point at the Cape of Good Hope, adding approximately nine days to their voyage. This detour is particularly critical for gas and oil shipments, as about 10% of the world’s oil supply traverses the Suez Canal. The trade volume through this canal has plummeted by an alarming 40%.

The Panama Canal’s Environmental Challenge

Parallel to the Suez Canal’s geopolitical strife, the Panama Canal faces an environmental crisis. The lakes that supply water to the canal’s lock system are drying up due to worsening annual droughts. This situation has rendered the canal too shallow for larger container vessels, leading to a 30% decline in trade through this second-busiest man-made shipping lane since November.

The Impact on Hawaii

Being an isolated island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean makes Hawaii particularly vulnerable to disruptions in shipping routes. The turmoil in the Suez Canal may not affect Hawaii as much, because it mainly serves as a pathway between Europe and Asia. Any impact that this route blockage would have on Hawaii would be indirect through a domino effect.  However, The Panama Canal is crucial for trade between the East coast of the U.S. and Hawaii. Goods transported by sea from the Atlantic side of the U.S. or Europe would pass through the Panama Canal to reach the islands.

Hawaii, just like the rest of the world, can experience the following market effects due to the trouble with the two major canals: 

  1. Increased Shipping Costs: The longer routes and higher insurance premiums for ships passing through high-risk areas like the Suez Canal could lead to increased shipping costs. This cost hike is likely to trickle down to Hawaiian consumers, potentially raising the prices of goods.
  2. Delayed Shipments: The extended voyages mean delayed arrivals of goods to Hawaii. This delay could impact the availability of various products, from everyday consumer goods to essential items like oil and gas.
  3. Diversification of Supply Sources: Hawaii may need to explore alternative supply sources to mitigate the risk of delayed shipments and increased costs. This diversification could involve strengthening trade ties with countries less affected by these maritime disruptions.
  4. Environmental Concerns: The rerouting of ships around the Cape of Good Hope increases fuel consumption, contributing to higher greenhouse gas emissions. Hawaii, a state committed to environmental sustainability, might need to reassess its shipping practices to align with its ecological goals.
  5. Opportunity for Local Industries: The disruptions in global shipping routes could serve as a catalyst for Hawaii to bolster its local industries. Reducing dependency on imported goods by promoting local production could be a strategic move.


The disturbances in the Suez and Panama Canals are not just distant geopolitical or environmental issues; they have tangible implications for Hawaii. The state must navigate these troubled waters by adapting its trade strategies, exploring new supply sources, and possibly reinvigorating local industries. As the global shipping landscape evolves, Hawaii’s resilience and adaptability will be key to mitigating the impact of these disruptions.


  1. The Economist. (2024, January 9). The dwindling of the Panama Canal boosts rival trade routes. Retrieved from
  2. The Wall Street Journal. 2024, January 11. Why This Shipping Route Is One of the World’s Most Dangerous. YouTube.

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