Panama Canal Raises Vessel Transits to 32 Per Day

Critical Trade Artery Has Faced Severe Water Shortages

The Panama Canal has issued an advisory to shipping lines stating it would raise the maximum authorized draft to 45 feet.

This adjustment, originally scheduled to take effect on June 15, was implemented at the end of May due to the expected onset of the rainy season in the Panama Canal Watershed and the current and projected levels of Gatun Lake over the coming weeks.

As a result of the higher draft, the number of daily transits in the panamax locks has increased from 17 to 24 and the number of daily transits in the neo-panamax locks has risen from 7 to 8.

“This adjustment will raise the total number of vessel transits per day to 32,” the Panama Canal Authority said in a filing.

The Panama Canal, a critical artery of global breakbulk and project cargo trade, has been facing unprecedented water shortages that have severely disrupted its operations. Historically high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean last year, compounded by the El NiƱo phenomenon affecting the Pacific Ocean, delayed the rainy season in Panama, leading to a significant decrease in freshwater levels crucial for the Canal’s operation.

Total vessel transits in October were cut to just 22, creating tailbacks of ships waiting to enter the 82-kilometer network.