Panama Squeeze Eases

Source: Daily Cargo News
Date: 15th March 2024

The Panama Canal Authority has opened up a few more daily transit slots as water levels gradually improve in the drought-stricken Gatun Lakes.

The Authority said it provide two additional slots per day for auction for the Panamax locks from Monday [18 March] and a further slot from the following Monday, to accommodate growing demand for transits.

“These measures allow the majority of vessels that want to transit the Canal to have a better chance of obtaining a reservation,” the authority said.

“Panama Canal specialists are closely monitoring the current water situation, and the measures announced on 15th March, published in the Advisory to Shipping, will remain in effect until conditions warrant changes, which will be announced in a timely manner.”

The available daily slots will thus increase to 27 which remains well short of the pre-drought quota of 36. It is a substantial improvement on a February forecast of just 18.

The Lakes were plagued by low freshwater levels for much of 2023, causing Canal draft and passage restrictions, mostly thanks to a severe El Niño. Good rainfall in November and December has seen the situation gradually improve.

Earlier this year Maersk Line decided to split its OC1 ANZ-ECNA service into two loops, Atlantic and Pacific, and landbridge cargo from one side of Panama to the other. While neither service operates ships likely to have been limited by the Canal restrictions, Maersk likely decided slots were better used for more cargo-heavy services while CMA CGM has re-iterated the need to adhere closely to booking windows or risk long delays.

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