Panama Canal increases daily slots in Panamax Locks


Amid rising water levels in Gatun Lake, the Panama Canal Authority plans to boost daily transit slots by three.

Panama Canal increases daily slots in Panamax Locks
© Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal Authority has unveiled plans to increase the number of daily slots available for vessels transiting the Panamax Locks by adding three more slots.

This announcement follows a notable rise in present and anticipated water levels in Gatun Lake, as revealed in a canal authority advisory prompted by recent substantial rainfall. The canal’s operational efficiency heavily relies on the water levels in the lake.

Since June of the preceding year, the Panama Canal has grappled with severe drought conditions, resulting in a staggering 40 percent reduction in daily traffic through the canal. October 2023 marked a historic low point, recording a 41 percent drop in rainfall compared to the usual levels.

Data from the International Monetary Fund indicates that during the first two months of 2024, the transit trade volume through the Panama Canal fell by almost 32 percent compared with the prior year.

In response to these challenges, the canal authority implemented measures to conserve water and ensure the safety of transit operations. In November, daily transits were reduced from 32 to 24, further dropping to 20 in December. However, by January, the canal resumed offering 24 transits per day.

To accommodate increased demand, an extra slot will be introduced for supers during Booking Period 2, commencing 14 days before the transit date, on March 25, 2024. Furthermore, with the commencement of Booking Period 3 (seven days prior to transit), two additional slots will be auctioned starting March 18.

Despite these enhancements, daily transits are expected to reach 27, still considerably below the average of 37 to 38 per day in normal operating conditions.

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