Panama Canal Restrictions Extended, Deepened

The Panama Canal, which handles about 5 percent of world trade by volume, has been hit by an El Niño drought for most of 2023 that has severely affected water levels at Gatun Lake, whose waters power the canal. It’s been called the canal’s worst drought in 70 years. A single transit takes about 200 million gallons to operate the locks by gravity.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced in September that end-of-summer rains were not enough to replenish Gatun Lake. On October 30, the authority announced that daily transits will be further reduced over the coming months due to the severe drought.

From an already reduced 31 booking slots per day, they were cut to 25 per day by November 6, ACP said in a shipping advisory, and will be gradually reduced further over the coming months to 18 per day beginning February 1, 2024.

“The recorded precipitation for October has been the lowest on record since 1950 … and so far, 2023 ranks as the second driest year for the same period,” the authority said.

Sign up for Waterway Journal's weekly newsletter.Our weekly newsletter delivers the latest inland marine news straight to your inbox including breaking news, our exclusive columns and much more.