Draught restrictions in Gatun Lake may impact almost of fifth of the transits through the Panama Canal.
The ‘El Nino’ climate pattern has triggered drought conditions in the canal watershed, “causing the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes to fall substantially below their averages for this time of year”, said the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) in a statement.
The ACP has advised shipping interests that the maximum draught will be set at 11.89 metres Tropical Fresh Water (TFW) starting 8 September. “These measures are being taken to ensure the continuous and safe operations of the canal during this period,” said the ACP, which estimates that 18.5% of vessel transits involve vessels with draughts of greater than 11.89 metres.
The ACP cautioned that draught may be further restricted to 11.73 metres TFW starting 16 September. “On the other hand, should rainfall increase over the next week or two, shipping will be advised of the lifting of the draught restriction,” said the ACP.
El Nino previously caused draught restrictions at the Panama Canal in 1997-98.