Limitations to continue until 2025 on Panama Canal

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Transit limitations through the Panama Canal, due to the severe drought facing the Central American country, could extend until at least February next year, although they will gradually ease if the rains increase the current critical level of the lakes that supply the water for the operation of the interoceanic route.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Panamanian road manager Ricaurte Vásquez said Tuesday that they will keep the restriction on 24 daily transits until at least April this year, below 36-38 in normal times.

“If it rains,” he said, then they can start climbing to normal. This scenario of normalization will not possibly take place until this very time of 2025, he explained.

This, however, is a scenario that will be more certain between 15 and 20 March when they make the weather forecast of the next 45 days, which has 75% reliability, he said.

Possibly in the next six months can we finish an analysis that gives a greater degree of certainty to the industry. We continue to find and look for technical solutions that allow us to solve the operation.
Ricaurte Vásquez, administrator of the panama channel.

The Panama Canal was forced for the first time in its history in September last year to have to limit the number of boats crossing the route on a daily basis, due to the worst drought that reduced the level of the lakes. These feed the locks that allow ships to cross from ocean to ocean, being the most critical point in December when they were only able to cross 22 ships.

The commercial route operates with fresh water, which comes from the lakes Gatún and Alajuela and which in turn are the ones that supply human consumption to more than half of the four million Panamanians.

“Possibly in the next six months we can finish an analysis that gives a greater degree of certainty to the industry,” Vázquez said. This study will indicate how much volume will be guaranteed to pass through the Panama Canal and what additional volumes could be, depending on variable conditions.

“That changes the whole way we do business, how many reservations are going to be made and how long they will be able to do it,” he said.

However, the road manager acknowledged that he is aware that, although the Canal can give reliability to those who reserve within the 24 spaces a day that open, the country and the route lose the same reliability by not having a longer solution.

Other challenges facing the Panama Canal is neither climate nor infrastructure, is political.

The administration of the Panama Canal, in September 2023, gave the Government of Panama the proposal to solve the long-term issue, which included defining the Canal Hydrographic Basin and modifying or extending the limits. In addition, remove the restrictions imposed on the canal for the construction of new reservoirs. One option that has been decked for years is to make a reservoir in a large tributary, known as the Indian River.

However, the administration of the current government, which ends on June 30, does not contemplate making these adjustments. “The conversation of ours with the central government is that this issue is not going to be touched on the rest of this administration,” said the Canal authority.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in La Prensa Grafica