Drought continues to slow down the Panama Canal

Panama City, 12 Sept (EFE).- The administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Ricaurte Vásquez, admitted that the canal has suffered its “most serious” crisis due to the lack of water for the passage of ships, which has increased the number of ships waiting to cross.

Climate variability, the El Niño phenomenon and a lack of rainfall have affected the capacity of the inter-oceanic canal in recent months.

However, Vásquez stressed that the Panama Canal, the only one in the world that relies on fresh water, “has never suspended operations during the crisis.”

Following media reports last month that several hundred ships were waiting in the canal, Vásquez insisted during a press conference that “there have never been 200 ships waiting, the maximum was 163 on 9 August 2023.”

“We have to put into perspective what the reality is and what has been said,” he added.

The ACP administrator explained that during the high season “the average number of ships waiting is 120,” while in the low season “the queue to enter the Panama Canal is 72,” and the waterway’s capacity is 36 ships under normal circumstances.

Since July 31, the canal, which is an important route for world trade and carries between 500 and 510 million tonnes of goods a year, has reduced the number of ships that pass through it every day from a maximum of 38 to 32.

At present, “there is a waiting time of between one and a half and two days”, which is why he admitted that “there is indeed a bottleneck, with more ships wanting to transit than the capacity can cope with”.

There has also been a gradual reduction to the current 44 feet, which has caused a congestion at the canal’s entrances that has had worldwide repercussions.

This congestion, which the canal is managing with measures such as a change in the reservation system, is increasing transport costs and delaying shipments, affecting global trade.

Speaking to the media today, the Canal Administrator stressed that “once this water crisis is over, the Panama Canal will eventually return to normal operations and will continue to be the most efficient route for the movement of goods.”

“We believe that whether this lasts 6 months, 12 months or 8 months, it is a short-term condition, but that in the end the market will readjust to return to the Panama Canal because it is the most efficient route for the movement of cargo.” EFE


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