Panama Canal drought

Panama Canal Draft Restrictions Lifted

Mike Schuler
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August 28, 2015

A cargo ship is seen on the Panama Canal in Panama City August 10, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso


The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said Friday that recent rainfall and water management measures means that upcoming draft restrictions for vessels using the waterway won’t be necessary. 

The restrictions were to enter into force beginning September 8th, but recent rain, water management and the deepening on navigation channels have made it so the restrictions will not have to enter into force.

Until further notice, vessels may continue to transit under the greatest draft permitted by the Panama Canal – 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) in Tropical Fresh water, according to the ACP.

The ACP announced the draft restrictions earlier in August due to an ongoing drought caused by El Niño. The restrictions set a maximum draft of 11.89 meters (39 feet), expected to impact 18.5% of vessels using the waterway. The also ACP warned that even greater restrictions (max 11.73 meters) were likely beginning as soon as September 16th, but it is apparent now that those restrictions will not be necessary either.

Forecast models are calling for a strong El Niño through the remainder of this year and possibly into spring 2016. Historically, El Niño has brought mostly dry conditions to Panama. Similar draft restrictions were imposed during the 1997-1998 El Niño.

The ACP says it will continue to monitor and manage the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes. Should more restrictions be required, the ACP says it will provide customers with at least four weeks notice.

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