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Montevideo, June 13th 2024 - 01:33 UTC

 

 

Gradual improvement reported at Panama Canal

Tuesday, April 16th 2024 - 10:26 UTC
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Weather conditions got worse given the arrival of the El Niño phenomenon affecting the number of ships using the interoceanic corridor Weather conditions got worse given the arrival of the El Niño phenomenon affecting the number of ships using the interoceanic corridor

Things are looking up for the drought-stricken Panama Canal as new water levels allow an increase in the daily number of ships allowed through the man-made interoceanic corridor. Starting in June, 32 ships will be let through, it was announced Monday.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said in a statement that from May 16 to 31, the total number of neopanamax ships (the larger ones that pass through the expansion inaugurated in 2016) would remain at 7, while panamax ships (those that pass through the century-old smaller locks) would amount to 24. As of June 1, the former category will be increased to 8, while the latter will remain at 24, for a total of 32 vessels.

Under optimal conditions, the average number of vessels is between 35 and 36. In 2022, an average of 39 ships per day was welcomed.

The new measures were adopted after a slight return of rain so far in April, the ACP also said. As of June 15, the maximum draft allowed for ships passing through the new neopanamax locks will be 13.71 meters to ensure “safe navigation,” the ACP added. However, maintenance work from May 7 to 15 will reduce the number of transits through the Panamax locks from 20 to 17 per day.

Since July 2023, daily transits have been limited due to water shortages in the artificial lakes of Gatun and Alhajuela, reaching 22 vessels in November. A further reduction to 18 vessels in February was not necessary. From March 25, a total of 27 vessels have been able to pass daily through the waterway, which serves more than 180 maritime routes connecting 170 countries and reaching some 1,920 ports worldwide. The canal, used mainly by customers from the United States, China, and Japan, has a system of locks to raise and lower ships. For every ship that passes through, 200 million gallons of fresh water are released into the ocean.

Weather conditions worsened by the arrival of the El Niño phenomenon also forced the ACP to reduce the draft (the submerged part of the ship) from a maximum of 50 feet to 44 feet. These restrictions resulted in a significant loss of toll revenue.

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