Bananas from Ecuador to Florida. Poultry from Chile to northern Europe. Liquid Natural Gas from the United States to Asia. And virtually anything under the sun out of China.

The traffic jam that has been piling up on the doorstep of the Panama Canal is a snapshot of how goods move across our globalised world, and the collateral damage that is at stake.

For months now, the queue for passage through one of the most iconic shipping routes on the planet has been getting worse. In late August, roughly 135 ships were waiting to cross the 82-kilometre waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, 50 percent more than would normally be there.

The cause is a protracted drought that has driven water levels down and forced canal operators to reduce the number of ships that can pass through its locks. As a result, giant container ships and tankers carrying dry goods, perishable items, and energy are sitting idle in the sea.