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Panama Canal transit restrictions set to ease following months of disruption

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal Authority has announced heavier ships carrying larger loads will now be able to transit through the important shipping shortcut, following recent rains that have boosted water levels.

The maximum authorised draft was raised to 47 feet on 26th June and will deepen further to 48 feet from 11th July.

By 22nd July, the Canal will have added two transits to its current schedule, including one to the Panamax Locks (boosting daily transits to 25) and one to the Neopanamax Locks (boosting daily transits to 9).

This continued progression is informed by the current and projected water levels of the Gatun Lake and the much-anticipated arrival of the rainy season, which will see overall daily transits increase from 32 to 33 on 11th July and again to 34 on 22nd July. 

There will also be a new booking slot for the Neopanamax Locks from 5th August, which will bring the total number of transits to 35 per day.

Between 13,000 to 14,000 vessels typically pass through the Neopanamax locks each year, with the waterway serving more than 180 maritime routes that connect 170 countries and approximately 1,920 global ports.

In February, the Canal’s daily traffic quota was slashed by a third following the worst Panama drought in decades, with below average rainfall leading to low reservoir levels.

PASA warned this could impact global supply chains, in combination with the tensions in the Red Sea impacting the Suez Canal.

At the time, only 24 vessels were permitted to pass through the vital Panama waterway each day, which was predicted to cost the Panama Canal Authority between $500 million and $700 million this year. 

A little over a month later, this figure sat at 27 with around 50 ships waiting outside the Canal.

However, despite the good news, the challenges haven’t gone away as climate change continues to affect the Panama Canal.

The Authority is exploring both short term and long term solutions, including water-saving measures and identifying alternative sources of water from the 51 watersheds and lakes in Panama.

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