Panama Canal issues update on impact of transit restrictions to conserve water levels

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The Panama Canal Authority reported that as of August 29, a total of 135 vessels were waiting to transit the Canal, distributed between the Atlantic and Pacific entrances. Of these, 53 had made reservations and will transit the Panama Canal without delay on their scheduled date, while vessels without reservations would experience a wait of 9 to 10 days, up from the usual 5-day wait.

The Authority adds that while the goal is to keep queues below 90 vessels, the current backlog situation is not unprecedented and has been encountered in previous years.

Current low water levels mean the Panama Canal has implemented two daily measures to optimise water use and mitigate impacts on cargo volume. At the panamax locks, the draft remains unchanged, and the number of transits is limited to an average of 22, while for the neopanamax locks, the available maximum draft is set at 44 feet, and the number of transits remain unaffected, at an average of 10 per day.

The Panama Canal Authority adds that traffic figures show that the Canal remains the primary route for 57.5% of the total cargo transported in container ships from Asia to the eastern coast of the United States, consistent with 2022 figures.

“This figure has not decreased,” it says, “so the Canal continues to be the preferred route for the container carrier segment, which has been minimally impacted by the adjustments to draft and transits associated with the measures incorporated to conserve water.”

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