Panama Canal Authority Increases Daily Transits

The Panama Canal Authority increases available spots for daily transits, but overall transits are still below their peak levels

Panama Canal Authority announced that it will be increasing the available spots for daily transits, as the authority takes steps to ease restrictions on transits. The restrictions were imposed in October last year, in response to the ongoing water drought in Panama.

From late March, available spots for daily transits in the Panama Canal will increase by a further 12%, according to the Maritime Executive.

Two additional slots for transit dates beginning 18th March will be made available through an auction process. Likewise, additional slots for transit dates beginning 25th March for original locks will become available too.

The reservation system has been used by shippers as a way of avoiding long delays due to the restrictions on the number of vessels entering the canal.

Data taken from 12th March, as cited in The Maritime Executive, showed that just 46 vessels were currently in the queue for transit. This was down from the previous peak of 100 ships.

Wait times for transits have reduced to under one day for northbound vessels without reservations, and five days for southbound vessels, without reservations.

The Panama Canal Authority imposed a series of restrictions in response to record low rainfall levels, which resulted in reduced water levels in reservoirs. Consequently, the number of vessels allowed into the Canal is 24 vessels per day. Better than expected rain in December allowed the Authority to suspend a reduction to 18 vessels per day that was expected to take effect in January of this year.

This level will be expected until April, which will coincide with the end of dry season. Panama’s rainy season runs from May to December, offering an opportunity to increase the reservoir’s water levels.

Since the restrictions were put in, there has been a 32% drop in trade volume across the Panama Canal compared with the previous year, according to data from the IMF’s Port Watch.

Many operators have been forced to transport parts of their loads across Panama by rail. In a customer advisory note on the 10th January, Maersk announced that it will be omitting the Panama Canal altogether. Instead, it will be using a “land bridge” to transport cargo by rail across 80km of Panama. This would in effect create two separate loops for the Atlantic and Pacific.

The Pacific vessels will arrive at Balboa, Panama, dropping off cargo heading for Latin America and North America, and picking up cargo heading for Australia and New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Atlantic vessels will arrive at Manzanillo, Panama, dropping off cargo heading for Australia and New Zealand, before picking up cargo heading for Latin and North America.

Panama’s toll revenues have dipped by $100 million per month, since the restrictions were first introduced in late October last year, with the figure expected to rise to $700 million by April if this trend continues, the canal’s administrator said.


Post Date: 15/03/2024

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