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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 To Ease Drought Restrictions In January

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December 16, 2023

By Joe Ryan (Bloomberg) The Panama Canal, which has been strained by drought for months, will increase the number of ships it accepts each day starting in January, thanks to better-than-expected November rains. 

As many as 24 vessels will be permitted to pass through the system daily, up from 22 currently, the canal authority said in a statement Friday. 

A powerful El Nino has reduced rainfall in the region, sapping the canal’s water levels. The situation has forced shippers to decide whether to wait in line for days or weeks, pay millions of dollars to jump ahead in the queue, or sail an entire continent out of the way around the southern tips of Africa and South America.

Also read: Panama Chaos Grows as US Diesel Shipper Takes the Long Route

Rainfall in the canal region dropped to a record low in October, prompting authorities to restrict traffic on the system for the first time. Levels on Lake Gatun, which forms a key stretch of the canal and provides fresh water for its locks, remain below expected levels.

By Joe Ryan © 2023 Bloomberg L.P.

Related Book: The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough

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