Panama Strait In Complex Situation Due To Drought

The Panama Strait, the waterway connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is in crisis due to drought.

The man-made canal, key to global maritime traffic, allows 13 to 14 thousand ships to pass each year, but has been implementing water-saving measures since early 2023 due to the region’s critical lack of precipitation.

Several months of low rainfall, especially from February to April, have dramatically lowered water levels in two artificial lakes, Alajuela and Gatun, which feed the canal. In recent weeks, the authorities managing the Panama Canal have already reduced the maximum draft of ships passing through it. This means that larger container ships have to reduce the total weight of the cargo carried, which leads to an increase in the overall transport costs. Currently, more than 100 ships are queuing to cross the canal.

“The extension of the dry season is a natural phenomenon affecting many regions, including the Panama Canal,” said the Panama Canal Authority in a statement. “While we cannot control nature, we can adapt our operations to allow ships to pass on competitive terms. Despite the challenges and measures we have had to take, the high demand for Panama Canal services demonstrates the confidence of the international maritime community. This highlights our competitiveness and the vital role we play in global trade.” In essence, these measures comprise an “adaptive approach,” in particular, more precise and stricter booking management.

“Today, we have about 120 ships waiting in transit,” the agency explains again. “This month, the average waiting time for unbooked transits ranges from 9 to 11 days.” Under normal conditions, up to 90 ships queue up to cross the canal, with 32 ships passing through daily.