Panama Canal warns of sharper El Niño draft limits

Panama Canal warns of sharper El Niño draft limits

The Panama Canal Authority has imposed a 45-foot draft restriction on the larger locks able to handle ships with up to 14,800 TEU in capacity, but the waterway's older locks, which are limited to ships with capacities of up to 5,000 TEU, remain unaffected. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

SINGAPORE — The Panama Canal Authority said the El Niño weather phenomenon is forcing draft restrictions in the waterway, but the impact of those restrictions on ship transits has been limited. A pinch will come within three weeks, however, if there isn’t enough rainfall, its chief warned.

“Right now there is a 45-foot draft restriction on the Neopanamax locks. If the dry spell continues, we may need to restrict it to 44 feet. But very few container ships have a draft beyond 45 feet, so the impact is not that much. It will start to hit us at a 44 foot draft; the next 20 days are critical,” Jorge Luis Quijano, administrator and chief executive of the Panama Canal Authority, said in a recent interview.

While the authority has imposed its draft restriction on the canal’s enlarged locks, which are able to handle ships with up to 14,800 TEU in capacity, the old locks, which are limited to ships with capacities of up to 5,000 TEU, remain unaffected.

The canal authority is working on plans for a third water reservoir, which would help replenish the locks system during dry weather as well as supply drinking water to Panama's population of 4 million. Quijano said the authority will make a decision on whether to proceed by the end of the year, adding that such a project would take about four years to complete.

“If we are going to have more transits, then you will have to have more water,” Quijano told JOC.com in July.

Contact Keith Wallis at keithwallis@hotmail.com.

Comments

IS this also effecting the weight the weight of boxes on these ships

Not sure., but the port authority has said in the past ships moving through the canal are rarely full so this isn't likely a problem yet. -- Thanks for reading - JOC Executive Editor Mark Szakonyi.

Maybe we can negotiate with the weather gods to send the weather patterns that are causing historic rainfall in the US Mid-Atlantic region since August of 2018 down to Panama and do some good.