Rainfall in the Panama Canal watershed during the past several days has allowed the Panama Canal Authority to postpone until June 13 the maximum authorized draft of 13.41 m (44.0 feet) TFW in the Neopanamax Locks. This restriction had been scheduled to become effective on May 30.
Therefore, the maximum authorized draft of 13.56 m (44.5 feet) TFW will remain in effect until June 12. The maximum authorized draft on June 25 has been set at 13.26 m (43.5 feet)
“The ACP will continue to monitor the level of Gatun Lake and announce future draft adjustments in a timely manner,” stated Boris Moreno Vásquez Vice President for Operations.
With rainfall dropping by 50% compared to recent averages from February to April, the Panama Canal Authority has imposed several draft restrictions since March 1. More restrictions could transpire with meteorologists warning that water depths in Lake Gatun could hit historic lows by July. The Lake Gatun locks are the closest to the Atlantic Ocean.
If the TFW drops to 13.41 m, industry observers expect some container ships to transit the international waterway with 40% less cargo. A number of global shipping lines have reacted to the restrictions by recently imposing surcharges.
Meanwhile, meteorologists have been forecasting the imminent onset of El Niño, which typically brings drier-than-normal conditions across much of Central America.
(Dreamstime photo of Gatun Locks on Panama Canal)