Panama Canal Restricts Crossing Due to Extreme Drought Conditions

Low water levels are forcing the managers of the Panama Canal to limit the number of ships passing through causing shipping delays which began two weeks ago.

Since the restrictions were enforced, delays at the canal have averaged about 15 to 19 days per vessel as fully-laden vessels are held back.

Affected by what it has described as an “unprecedented” drought, the Panama Canal Authority has shaved around 2 meters off its maximum draft for its neopanamax locks as well as slashed the maximum amount of daily transits to just 32 voyages per day compared to 36 to 38 in normal conditions.

Not enough rain has fallen to fill the rivers and brooks that feed into the Gatun Lake which provides water to fill the locks.

“The changed operating conditions means that ships from all segments are facing delays, with vessel tracking data showing enormous queues at both sides of the waterway,” said Ryan Chan, Senior Vice President APAC for Worldwide Logistics Group.

According to ABC News, Richard Vasquez, the canal’s administrator, said that income in 2024 could drop by as much as $200 million because of the drought. Earnings were expected to by around $4.9 billion prior to the decision to reduce the daily number of vessels.

About 3.5 percent of the world’s sea trade passes through the 80 kilometer inter-oceanic waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

“We’ve been in situations like this where last-minute pivots are necessary to mediate delays,” said Tom Peacock, President of Worldwide Logistics Group. “Our team can assist customers so they can make appropriate decisions and communicate changes in schedules to their end users.”

Please contact your Worldwide Logistics Group representative for assistance.