Inchcape Shipping Services (ISS) is advising of reduced draft for transit of the Panama Canal as a result of drought conditions which have depleted Gatun Lake water levels. This is the first time that the Panama Canal has imposed draft restrictions this far into the rainy season due to the ‘El Niño’ weather pattern.
From 8th September 2015, the maximum authorised transit draft for the Panama Canal will be 11.89 metres (39 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). The advance guidance issued by the Panama Canal Authority is specifically to enable vessels loading in distant ports to adjust cargo loading plans and allow them to comply with the draft restriction on arrival at the Panama Canal.
The new restrictions also state that vessels loaded prior to 11th August 2015 to a draft over 11.89 metres (39 feet) will be waived for transit, subject to safety considerations. However, vessels loaded on or after 11th August 2015 must comply with the restrictions and may be required to trim or offload cargo, depending on the actual level of Gatun Lake at the time of the transit (where the lake level allows, the transit of vessels at deeper draft may be permitted).
Vessels may load to drafts deeper than 11.89 metres (39 feet) up to 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) after 11th August 2015 provided that they transit prior to 8th September 2015.
Further restrictions may also be imposed by the Panama Canal according to future forecasts on the level of Gatun Lake. ISS Central America will continue to monitor developments and keep its clients updated.