Draft restrictions for Panama Canal shipping because of El Nino-related drop in water levels

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced on Monday it is introducing temporary draft restrictions on shipping through the trans-oceanic shortcut because of drops in water levels.

The ACP – the government agency responsible for the operation and management of the Canal – attributes the shallow levels to effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Starting on April 18 the maximum allowed draft will be 39 feet (11.89m) but ships already loaded before Monday (March 21) will be exempt. Vessels loaded after that date will have to obey the new measure.
The normal maximum draft is 39.5 feet (12.03m).

The ACP leaves open the right to further decrease the maximum draft in six-inch (15cm) increments. Each increment will be announced four weeks in advance.

The El Nino effect features above-average Pacific Ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions, which change the places where storms occur.

Usually, for the Panama Canal, this means less rainfall, leading to lower water levels in the artificial lakes – Madden Lake and Gatun Lake – on which Canal operations depend.

The Canal is in the late stages of a huge expansion project to make it capable of handling the new generation of supersized cargo ships.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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