Drought-Stricken Panama Canal Limits Daily Vessel Crossings


The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has been forced to limit the number of vessels transiting the canal to conserve water as the region grapples with severe drought conditions.

Beginning July 30, the number of vessels transiting the canal will be reduced to 32 per day – down from an average of 35 – 38 – with priority given to full containerships.

The ACP plans to maintain the current depth limit of 44 feet in order to avoid putting additional strain on global supply chains.  However, the ACP warns that capacity and draft limits may be adjusted further should weather conditions drastically impact water levels at Gatun Lake.

“In the last six months, the Canal has experienced an extended dry season with high levels of evaporation, with a high probability of an El Niño condition before the end of this calendar year,” which could worsen things, the authority said in its customer advisory.  Since the beginning of the year, canal authorities have rolled out a number of water-efficiency measures to mitigate the effects of the ongoing drought and to limit the impacts on international trade and have pledged to maintain workable waters levels in the months ahead.

The daily vessel limits will invariably increase the waiting time for vessels crossing the canal, especially if the limitations remain in place for an extended period.