Panama Canal to Increase Daily Transits in January

Princess ship in Panama Canal

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced that it will increase the number of daily transits to 24 starting in January.

Currently, 22 vessels transit daily, divided into 6 Neopanamax and 16 Panamax. This restriction is in response to the current state of Gatun Lake, which is experiencing unusually low water levels for this time of the year due to the drought induced by the El Niño phenomenon, according to the ACP.

October 2023 marked the driest October on record for the Canal Watershed. In anticipation of a potential worsening of the situation in November and December, the decision was made to adjust the number of daily transits to 22 in December, 20 in January, and 18 in February. This year marks the first time the Canal has ever had to restrict transits.

However, as rainfall and lake levels for November proved to be less adverse than expected, coupled with the positive outcomes from the Canal’s water-saving measures, the adjustments announced today will replace the previous advisory issued in October, the ACP stated.

Canal specialists are said to be closely monitoring the water level, and the measures announced today will go into effect January 16, 2024, and remain in effect until conditions warrant changes.

As 2023 is the second driest year in recorded history of the Panama Canal Watershed, the Canal has implemented an operational strategy focused on water conservation and transit reliability in the face of low rainfall and the consequent decrease in lake levels.

The Gatun and Alhajuela Canal Lake System stores water primarily intended for meeting the needs of the population and ensuring the smooth operation of the canal. Additionally, stored water is utilized for various purposes, including electricity generation and fostering the nation’s economic activities.

Water extracted from this system undergoes treatment to meet drinking water standards and is distributed to over 50 percent of the country’s population residing in the districts of Panama, San Miguelito, Arraijan, Chorrera, and Colon. Currently, eight water treatment plants extract water from Gatun Lake, with two more under construction. The Federico Guardia Conte water treatment plant, the largest in the country, draws water from Alhajuela Lake.

 

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