Pacific Relief: Panama Canal Authority Boosts Daily Transits Amidst Water-Level Challenges

In response to persistent drought, ACP adjusts scheduling to 24 daily transits starting January, countering a recent dip in traffic and accommodating maritime shifts.

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In response to recent precipitation patterns, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced a significant adjustment in its transit scheduling, signaling an increase in daily transits to 24 starting January. This decision supersedes the previously announced plan, which had outlined projections of 20 daily slots for January and 18 for February.

Presently, the ACP permits the transit of 22 vessels daily, categorized into six neopanamaxes and 16 panamaxes. This restriction is a direct response to the challenges posed by the current condition of Gatun Lake, situated in the middle of the canal. Unusually low water levels, attributed to the El Niño-induced drought, necessitated these limitations.

The persistent drought conditions have prompted the ACP to implement measures such as reducing the maximum draft on larger locks and slashing daily transit numbers by almost 50%. This has resulted in a notable diversion of maritime traffic, with numerous vessels opting for longer routes, either circumnavigating the capes or choosing the Suez Canal. However, the latter route has encountered its own set of challenges in the past month, as the Houthis in Yemen targeted commercial sea traffic in the southern Red Sea.

Official figures indicate a decline in Panama Canal transits to 783 in November, equivalent to 26 crossings per day. This represents a substantial drop from October’s 32.4 transits per day, the year-to-date average of 33.9, and 2022’s average of 35.5 transits per day. The adjustment in daily transits aims to mitigate the impact of the persistent drought on the canal’s operational efficiency and accommodate the evolving dynamics of maritime traffic.

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