The Panama Canal Authority said on Thursday it has implemented temporary restrictions on passage slots for booked vessels that it expects will help ease a bottleneck of ships that are waiting outside the waterway to pass without reservations.
A logjam of commercial vessels seeking to pass through the drought-hit canal has sent companies that typically use the waterway chasing alternative routes, according to executives and data.
As of Aug. 10, there were 161 vessels outside the Canal, an increase from the about 90 ships typically seen this time of the year, canal officials told Reuters. Refinitiv Eikon data showed at least 40 more ships approaching the passage.
The new restriction, disclosed to customers on Tuesday and that will remain in effect through Aug. 21, affects the Canal’s old locks, used by smaller vessels. Transit through the largest locks will remain unaltered, it said in a statement.
“This particular adjustment has been introduced to alleviate congestion for ships already in queue to transit or en route, who were unable to secure reservations beforehand,” it said in the release.
The authority also maintained a restriction of the total number of vessels allowed to pass to 32 per day, from 36 per day in normal conditions, and will continue limiting maximum draft to 44 feet, or 13.41 meters, through part of 2024.
The measures aim at cut down on the about 51 million gallons of water needed for each crossings as prolonged drought continues.