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Transit delays at the Panama Canal due to water measures

The recent implementation of new water measures on 15 February for the Panama Canal have already produced delays for vessel transits.

“The current waiting time is approximately 11 days for the Panamax locks and 3-4 days for neo-panamax locks but the waiting time vary from one vessel to another depending on vessel category, vessel restrictions, and transit direction (northbound or southbound).

“Vessels that book their transit for a particular date have transit certainty for that date. The historical compliance with the booked vessels are over 99% and have remained above that since the implementation of the recent changes,” said The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) Operations team.

 At the same time, to the extent that the size of the vessels allows, the waterway has implemented tandem lockages, allowing two ships to transit in the same chamber. In order for both vessels to transit, ships must not be more than 825 feet. This allows saving 100% pf the water used in the transit of a ship alone in the Panamax locks.

 According to a shipping agent the reasons for the delays are the low level of Gatun Lake and since 15 February, the Canal reduced transits to 32 per day. He says that with 29 booking slots daily and only 32 able to transit, the waiting time and backlog are growing day by day.

 The backlog is an expected result of the measures that started on 15 February, since the amounts of slots available are currently in condition 1a, which is the condition used when there are lane outages. Most slots are booked throughout end of March, so this is a result of the water measures, said the ACP.

 The draught is currently at 46 ft and the idea of these measures was to try not to go below 44 ft. The Canal put the information on the lake levels with a forecast http://www.pancanal.com/eng/h2o/index.html

 “To optimise scheduling and use of resources, customers are provided with real-time data on current and projected water levels at Gatun Lake, available maximum drafts, and the number and types of transits when requesting transits or making reservations in order to plan accordingly.

“We remain committed to providing reliable service to our customers and can assure that the recent adjustments are the best and necessary way to ensure the availability of water throughout the dry season,” the ACP said in a statement.

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