The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced a fifth draught reduction for ocean vessels passing through the new locks of the Panama Canal as a severe dry season hits Central America.
Ocean carriers have been warned that after April 30th, the maximum draught for transiting the new locks will be restricted to 44 feet of Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). Originally designed to cover 50 feet TFW, draughts over 13.41 metres will be waived for transit, subject to safety considerations and the water level of Panama’s Gatun Lake. If a vessel is denied entry, the carrier can elect to reduce their cargo’s weight by off-loading.
Draught restrictions are implemented 30.5 cm at a time and require four weeks’ notice to steamship lines, in order to adjust and balance VGM verified cargoes.
But this is not the first time the ACP has implemented weight restrictions. Almost every year, the country tentatively awaits to see if the El Niño phenomenon will resurface as it did back in the 1997-98 dry season causing widespread blackouts. Unfortunately, the signs are showing as waterway authorities reported the first quarter of 2019 as being the driest in 106 years. During an El Niño event, rain patterns change, causing widespread droughts, especially to the Canal’s watershed, fed by Lake Gatun.
“The intensity of the solar radiation, added to a 30% increase in the winds, is causing the water in the lakes Gatun and Madden to evaporate at a faster rate than it enters and lake levels are falling at breakneck speed,” ACP’s Vice President for Water and Environment, Carlos Vargas, told public outlets.
According to the North American Agency of Atmospheric Administration (NOOA), there is an 80% chance of El Niño continuing into June. Shippers should plan accordingly, confirming verified gross mass weight limitations to avoid any disturbances in their supply chain.
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