Drought conditions see Panama Canal restrict daily transits

The Panama Canal Authority has decided to restrict the number of daily transits to 32 vessels a day as Central America grapples with the effects of drought and the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The canal will keep its maximum draft at 13.41 m for the next “several” months, it stated in a release yesterday, some 2 m shy of its maximum.

“As part of a worldwide phenomenon, 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,” the authority stated in a release, while announcing the transit restrictions. At peak performance, the canal can handle up to 40 transits a day.

Severe drought this year had seen Panamanian officials announce successive draft restrictions.

It requires 200m litres of water to allow the passage of a single vessel along the canal, water that is largely generated from Lake Gatun, which has seen its water levels drop seriously in recent months.

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