The operator of the Panama Canal, a route for cargo ships between the Atlantic and the Pacific, announced on Tuesday that it would further reduce the number of crossings due to the drought. Traffic will be reduced to 25 ships per day from Friday November 3 and will gradually drop to 20 ships per day in mid-February, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) said. In 2022, this passage through which nearly 6% of world maritime trade passes had welcomed 39 boats per day on average.
Faced with the lack of water, the ACP had, however, to decree at the end of July a first drastic limitation of traffic, which then increased to 32 daily boats, then to 29. The draft had been reduced to 44 feet (13, 4 meters). Since then, “October has been the driest month recorded in 73 years. The drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon continues to seriously impact the reservoir systems necessary for the operation of the canal locks, noted the operator.
The restrictions have caused deadlines for boats to pass through, with the queue reaching up to 163 ships in August. 80 kilometers long, the canal provides direct access between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, which allows it to bypass the South American continent. The main countries using it are the United States, China and Japan. For each boat it is necessary to discharge approximately 200 million liters of fresh water, which the canal obtains from a hydrographic basin formed by the Gatún and Alajuela lakes.