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Drought hit Panama Canal further restricts maximum ship depth

A bulk carrier transits the Cocoli Locks at the Panama Canal, on the outskirts of Panama City, Panama April 19, 2023. REUTERS/Aris Martinez/File Photo

Panama Canal Postpones Depth Restrictions After Much-Needed Rain

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June 24, 2023

PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – The Panama Canal will postpone depth restrictions that were set to affect the largest ships crossing the key waterway, the canal authority said, after much-needed rain provided relief to the strained maritime passage.

A series of measures were scheduled to go into effect on June 25 and July 9 requiring ships to float at higher depths, meaning they needed to carry less cargo or otherwise shed weight and impacting trade at one of the world’s busiest commercial crossings.

Panama’s rainy season had been slow to give respite to a months-long drought. However, rains are expected to dump between 70 mm (2.76 in) and 80 mm (3.15 in) of precipitation into the Panama Canal basin over the next 72 hours, according to the country’s weather service.

Neo-Panamax ships can continue to sail at the previous depth limit of 44.0 feet (13.41 m) and Panamax ships can move at 39.5 feet (12.04 m), the canal authority said in an advisory to customers seen by Reuters.

The administration did not specify when the measures would be postponed until, but said it would continue to monitor water levels and “announce future draft adjustments in a timely manner.”

The canal authority had previously announced another tightening, set for July 19, but did not refer to this in its client advisory. Officials did not immediately respond to a Reuters request to clarify.

Since the beginning of the year, the canal had instituted a number of depth restrictions as a drought, caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon, had put pressure on its water supplies.

(Reporting by Eli Moreno; Writing by Kylie Madry; editing by Diane Craft)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2023.

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