Drought Causes Draft Restrictions in the Panama Canal
Draught conditions have led the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to
set draft restrictions for vessels operating in the canal.
ACP described the restriction as temporary and preventive measure
due to the El Niño climate phenomenon resulting in periodic
warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean. When this occurs, El Niño
changes the pattern of rainfall in many regions of the planet, in
this case triggering a drought in the Canal Watershed, causing
water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes to fall substantially
below their average for this time of year.
Accordingly, from September 8 the maximum authorized transit
draft will be set at 11.89 meters Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). ACP
also anticipates that the draft may be restricted to 11.73 meters
(38.5 feet) starting September 16.
The draft restrictions are not expected to significantly affect
the efficiency or capacity of canal operations since only 18.5
percent of the vessels transit with drafts greater than 11.89
meters, according to ACP.
Vessels loaded on or after August 11 must comply with the
restrictions and may be required to trim or offload cargo,
depending on the actual level of Gatun Lake at the time of the
transit, advises maritime and cargo services provider Inchcape
Shipping Services (ISS). Where the lake level allows, the transit
of vessels at deeper draft may be permitted. Vessels may load to
drafts deeper than 11.89 meters up to 12.04 meters after August
11 provided that they transit prior to September 8.
ACP said it will continue to monitor the water levels of Gatun
and Alhajuela Lakes, providing at least four weeks' notice should
further draft restrictions become necessary. Conversely, ACP will
lift the draft restriction should rainfall increase.
The Panama Canal said it has responded to situations with similar
conditions in the past, most recently for the El Niño phenomenon
during the 1997-1998 season. Howvwer, this is the first time that
the Panama Canal has imposed draft restrictions this far into the
rainy season due to the El Niño weather pattern, ISS noted.
Aug 14, 2015