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Several freighters, assisted by tugboats, are entering the Panama Canal at Gatun Locks on the Atlantic side.

Photo: Matt Ragen/Shutterstock

Panama Canal Increasing Daily Transit Slots Amid Improved Water Levels

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 5074
March 12, 2024

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced an increase in the number of daily transit slots available in the older Panamax Locks. The measures come in response to the current and anticipated water levels of Gatun Lake and increased demand for transit slots.

Starting March 18, two more Panamax slots will be available for auction, and from March 25, an additional slot will be introduced. This will increase the daily transits to 27, an improvement from the current 24 slots. The levels are still significantly lower than the 36 daily transits typically available.

This move aims to provide vessels with a higher chance of securing a reservation for transit through the Canal.

Transit slot schedule courtesy ACP

Low water levels in Gatun Lake forced the Panama Canal Authority to reduce the capacity of the waterway in 2023 through daily transit and draft limits, in an effort to conserve freshwater. However, above average rainfall in November and December allowed the ACP to maintain 24 daily transits, rather than reduce the number to 18 in February as planned.

The severe drought in Panama, worsened by a strong El Niño, is expected to see a shift towards La Niña this summer, which could result in above-average rainfall in the region.

Panama Canal officials are monitoring the current water situation and will maintain the measures announced today until conditions change.

“The Panama Canal is dedicated to enhancing efficiency and responsiveness to the evolving needs of the maritime industry. The introduction of additional slots reflects our ongoing commitment to maintaining the Panama Canal’s status as a premier global trade route,” the ACP said in a statement.

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