Panama Canal to slash transits due to ongoing drought

(PANAMA CITY, Panama) — Since the beginning of the 2023 dry season, the Panama Canal has adopted several water-saving and conservation measures in the transit operation, including the use of water-saving basins in the neo-Panamax locks and cross-filling in the Panamax locks.

In addition, the late arrival of this year’s rainy season, and lack of precipitation in the canal watershed, has obliged the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to reduce the transit capacity to approximately 32 vessels per day since July 30, while managing the available rainfall over the watershed to maintain Gatun Lake at a level that would offer a competitive draft for clients (the canal has the capacity for 38 to 40 transits per day). On Sept. 29, the ACP announced an additional reduction in capacity, effective Nov. 1.

Panama Canal Authority photo

Despite all measures taken, the level of Gatun Lake has continued to decline to unprecedented levels for this time of year. The recorded precipitation for October has been the lowest on record since 1950 (41 percent below), and so far, 2023 ranks as the second driest year for the same period.

Based on the rainfall projections for the following weeks, which as of Oct. 30 is expected to be 38 percent less for the rest of the year, the ACP finds it necessary to further reduce the daily transit capacity to postpone the need for additional draft reductions below the current 13.41 meters (44 feet).

Therefore, from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 25, and from Nov. 7 to Nov. 30, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 24.

In addition, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 31, the number of booking slots will further be reduced to 22, and from Jan. 1, 2024, to Jan. 31, 2024, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 20.

For booking dates beginning Feb. 1, 2024, and until further notice, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 18 per day.

– Panama Canal Authority

By Professional Mariner Staff