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Focus on Panama

Panama Canal enforces lower draught restrictions

Photo: Panama Canal Authority LNG transiting the Panama Canal.jpeg
The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has enforced lower maximum draught of vessels transiting the expanded Panama Canal’s neo-panamax locks due to an ongoing drought.

The restrictions were introduced on 19 April and requires vessels to reduce weight or otherwise handle less goods onboard.

The interim measure was outlined by officials without a deadline, but they expressed optimism that it might “be lifted as soon as possible” once the Central American rainy season starts.

The level of Gatun Lake has been falling faster than anticipated, putting pressure on the critical shipping route, despite implementing water-saving measures, the ACP said,

In response, the ACP has announced updated maximum draughts for the neo-panamax locks.

Effective April 19, 2023, the maximum authorised draught for vessels transiting the neo-panamax locks has been set at 14.48 m (47.5 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). Further reductions will take effect on April 27, May 5, and May 12, bringing the maximum authorised draught to 14.02 m (46.0 feet) TFW.

The ACP reminds that vessels must adhere to the maximum authorised draught at the time of transit, warning that waiting times for transit can vary, potentially causing a vessel to arrive in compliance with the maximum allowable draft but then be subject to a draft reduction while still awaiting transit. The ACP therefor advises that waiting times should be factored in when planning transit at or near the maximum authorised draught upon arrival.

The ACP will continue to closely monitor the level of Gatun Lake and provide timely updates on future adjustments.