Panama Canal Can Handle 24 Ships Per Day Amid Drought

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By LatAm Reports Editor

Since January 24 boats are allowed to cross the Panama Canal per day and the projection is to maintain it in the coming months.

The worst scenario for the Panama Canal, which would be to reduce transit to only 18 ships since February, seems not to take place.

The efforts of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to save water coupled with the rains of recent weeks have allowed the daily transit of boats to increase in January from 22 to 24 and if the situation does not improve the situation this measure would remain in the dry season.

This information was revealed by John Langman, executive manager of the ACP Project Management division, who said everything is subject to the weather.

“We are anticipating according to the international institutions that declare the change in the status of the Child Phenomenon, more or less from April, May and June, that we can have rains in a timely manner so that these transits are not reduced beyond 24,” Langman said.

If the rains are delayed, the ACP may have to apply additional restrictions, the executive acknowledged.

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Reducing to only 18 boats the daily crossing of the Canal was a concern for the country’s shipping companies and logistics industry, as it would have a strong impact on their productivity.

In a regular scenario there are 36 boats that cross the interoceanic route daily, however, in the face of drought it has been restricted.’

This year’s water crisis has been the most serious for the Panama Canal, which has already faced similar situations in 2015 and 2018.

What is worrying is that dry years like 2023 are expected to be repeated more frequently in the future.

The lakes Gatún and Alajuela, which give the Canal water to operate, also serves to give drinking water to 60% of the country’s population.

In addition, three purification companies are currently being built that will feed on them, such as Sabanitas, Howard and Gamboa, which must be ready in the coming years.

Langman mentioned other measures that are being implemented in the short term to ensure water for the operation of the Canal.

He mentioned passing boats together through the locks, when the size of these allows, and using smaller bedrooms of the lock, which require less water.

Another is to reserve as much water as possible on Lake Alajuela.

The engineer mentioned that this process is very technical and difficult to explain, but because of that the Alajuela is practically full and Lake Gatún remains at a lower level.

On the other hand, a tender for a 14-kilometre pipe and water intake is being carried out to bring water from

“That isolates the taking of the Miraflores water treatment plant from the Cocolí locks, because they are very close, and consequently we can more frequently reuse the recycling tubs without effects of salinity at the plant

In the medium term, one option is for the Canal to work with the Government to find other sources of water for population consumption.

Among these sources could be Lake Bayano, which would serve the population of the eastern sector of the province of Panama.

“They all have the capacity to provide water, some already do, others could contribute more with some kind of investment,” Langman said.

This article has been translated from the original which first appeared in Pan America