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Gradual Improvement of Panama Canal Operations with the Onset of the Rainy Season

Due to a consistent lack of rainfall and reduced water levels at Gatun Lake, the Panama Canal Authority published Advisory A-48-2023 in November 2023, declaring Condition No. 5 and severely restricting the number of daily transit slots. However, with the onset of the rainy season, conditions have significantly improved.

The worst of the water crisis seems to be behind us. The Canal Authority has eased draft restrictions, particularly for Neopanamax ships, and is now adding additional transit slot capacity for all ship categories. By July 22nd, the canal will offer a total of 34 daily transit slots: 9 Neopanamax, 19 Panamax, and 6 regular transits. This is a significant improvement from the numbers available when it became apparent in November 2023 that water resources for the drier months of January-May would not suffice for more than 24 transits per day.

Currently, only booked vessels are being allowed to transit, and the main issue is obtaining a booking. While some booked slots are offered in small numbers through the regular booking system of competition via customer code, the majority of booked slots are now auctioned. The criteria for booked and unbooked schedules and waiting times, which were valid until the water emergency measures started in November 2023, are being replaced by an all-booked canal criteria. Going forward, only booked vessels will be scheduled for transit. All slots that used to be available on a first-come, first-served basis are no longer available, with no chance of unbooked vessels transiting, other than small crafts.

Booking regulations are presently under review to adapt the booking periods, the number of slots offered per period, and the overall process of applying and obtaining these slots.

We remain in constant communication with the Panama Canal Authority and will keep you posted on developments in this evolving situation at the Panama Canal.


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