Panama Canal to Increase Daily Transits Next Month

A cargo ship in the Panama Canal
Updated Published

Starting from January, the Panama Canal Authority will increase daily transits to 24, following consistent rain over the last 6-week period. 

This new measure replaces previous forecasted announcements of 20 daily transits for January and 18 for February. 22 vessels are currently allowed to make the transit daily, which is divided into 6 neopanamaxes and 16 panamaxes. 

This restriction comes as a response to current challenges posed by the state of Gatun Lake, in the middle of the canal. The lake has been experiencing low water levels, which is unusual for the time of year. This is due to drought induced by the El Niño phenomenon. 

The Panama Canal Authority has slashed the maximum draft on its larger locks due to the persistent drought, and has had to cut daily transit numbers by up to 50%. This has resulted in an exodus of traffic, with ships having to opt for longer routes via the Suez Canal or the capes. The Suez Canal has had its own difficulties in the past month, with the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen targeting commercial traffic in the Red Sea. 

The Panama Canal has seen a fall in transits, with official numbers stating 783 in November - the equivalent of 26 crossings per day. From October, that was down from 32.4, with a year-to-date average of 33.9 and from 2022’s 35.5.