The Panama Canal will increase the number of daily transits to 24, starting in January, from the current 22 vessels, which are divided into six neopanamax and 15 panamax ships.
"This restriction [for 22 vessels transiting the canal] is in response to the challenges posed by the current state of Gatun Lake, which is experiencing unusually low water levels for this time of the year due to the drought induced by the El Niño phenomenon,"
October 2023 marked the driest October on record for the Canal Watershed. In anticipation of a potential worsening of the situation in November and December, Panama Canala decided to adjust the number of daily transits to 22 in December, 20 in January, and 18 in February.
This year marks the first time the Canal has ever had to restrict transits.
However, as rainfall and lake levels for November proved to be less adverse than expected, coupled with the positive outcomes from the Canal’s water-saving measures, Panama Canal proceeded with the latest adjustments.
Additionally, the Panama Canal will allow one booking slot per customer per date, with some exceptions for quotas offered to vessels competing through the reservation system. "These measures allow the majority of vessels that want to transit the Canal to have a better chance of obtaining a reservation," said the Canal.
The latest measures, published in the Advisory to Shipping, will go into effect on 16 January 2024 and remain in effect until conditions warrant changes.
As 2023 is the second driest year in recorded history of the Panama Canal Watershed, the Canal has implemented an operational strategy focused on water conservation and transit reliability in the face of low rainfall and the consequent decrease in lake levels.