Panama Canal to Reduce Booking Slots Due to Drought over Coming Months

  • November 23, 2023
  • News

The Panama Canal, one of the world’s main maritime trade routes, is further planning to minimize the number of daily ship crossings in the upcoming months due to severe drought. From November 3, 2023, the booking slots will be cut to 25 ships per day and it might gradually cut further across the next three months to 18 slots from Feb 1.

In the last few months, the ACP has introduced various restrictions to conserve scarce water, including cutting vessel drafts and daily passage approvals. It was found that water levels in the Gatun Lake, the rainfall-fed principal reservoir that floats ships through the Panama Canal lock system, have been continually declining to unprecedented levels. When checked, 2023 has been ranked as the second driest year following 1950, which was declared as the lowest recorded precipitation.

A naturally occurring El Niño climate pattern associated with warmer-than-usual water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is causing a drought in Panama. The delayed arrival of rains and lack of precipitation in the canal watershed has forced the canal authority to reduce the average daily transit capacity slightly to 32 vessels per day since July 30.

This reduced number has resulted in long delays with many vessels waiting to transit the canal. An analyst note from the U.S. Energy Information Administration stressed that waiting time at the canal has pushed shipping rates higher elsewhere by decreasing the globally available number of vessels.