The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced a second tightening of vessel draft restrictions in a matter of two weeks as the effects of El Nino weather patterns continue to affect water levels for the famous inter-oceanic channel.
The latest announcement of a temporary restriction will see the maximum allowable draft lowered to 38.5 feet (11.74 metres), effective from April 29.
Previously, on March 21, the first such restriction had seen the maximum set at 39 feet (11.89m), from a norm of 39.5 (12.03m). That restriction will begin on April 18, although in each instance ships already loaded before the day of announcement will be exempt.
El Nino is a phenomenon whereby above average Pacific Ocean temperatures and atmospheric conditions impact on where storms occur. Usually this means less rainfall for the Canal zone and lower levels in Gatun Lake, on which Canal operations depend.
The Canal is less than three months away from the scheduled inauguration of its expansion project and after that it should be able to accommodate the new supersized container ships, which carry three times the volume of cargo of the biggest vessels that use the Canal today.