Panama Canal reduces draught for new locks for fourth time due to severe dry season

As the severe dry season continues the Panama Canal authorities announced on Thursday it will reduce the draught in the neo-panamax locks for a fourth time effective 29 March.

From that date on, the maximum authorised draught for the neo-panamax locks will be 14.02 metres (46 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW).

Vessels arriving after 29 March with draughts over 14.02 metres (46.0 feet) TFW may be allowed to transit, depending on the actual level of Gatun Lake at the time of transit. Otherwise, they will be required to trim or off-load cargo in order to be allowed to transit

On 15 February the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said it was reducing the maximum draught, effective 13 March, to 14.33 metres (47 feet), based on the present and projected levels of Gatun Lake for the following weeks.

Hear from Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano at the Sea Asia 2019 Conference in Singapore

The ACP began reducing the maximum draught in early February because of low rainfall registered in the Panama Canal watershed during December 2018, [which marks the beginning of the dry season] around 90% below the historical average, which caused water levels in Gatun and Madden Lakes to drop below the expected.

It is unusual for the Panama Canal to reduce draught on four occasions and this year dry season in the Canal watershed had been one of the driest seasons recorded in a long time.

Although the third set of locks that allows bigger vessels to transit the waterway have been built with water-saving basins, the impact of a prolonged dry season particularly intense this year prompted Canal authorities to take preventive measures.

Draft adjustments will be announced in 12-inch (30.5 cm) decrements, generally with at least four weeks advanced notice.

Posted 01 March 2019

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Michele Labrut

Americas Correspondent, Seatrade Maritime News

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