Rainfall Limits Panama Canal Shipping Traffic

April 27, 2023
Rainfall Limits Panama Canal Shipping Traffic

An ongoing lack of rainfall has resulted in the Panama Canal reducing shipping traffic, which perhaps threatens the future of the only route linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Around 14,000 ships, and six per cent of all global shipping, passes through the canal. However, for the fifth time this drought season (January to May), the Panamanian Canal Authority (ACP) has had to put a limit on larger type ships passing through.

Two artificial lakes supply water to the Panama Canal, which sit up to 26 metres above sea level, and rainwater flows down through a series of tiered locks to operate it. The ACP have stated that from 21 March to 21 April, water levels fell by seven metres – more than 10 per cent.

A major upgrade of the canal was completed in 2017, which enabled the larger ship sizes of up to 13,000 TEU, as opposed to 5,000 TEU, to pass. However, it is the larger ships now being seasonally affected by the low water levels.

Without a solution for the issues now impacting larger ships, the Panama Canal risks losing out to the Suez Canal for around the world container traffic originating in Asia.

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