Panama Canal eases draft limits, lowers daily transit volume

The Panama Canal relaxes draft restrictions and reduces volume for daily transit
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Panama Canal authorities have called on global shipping organizations to coordinate their transit plans as the canal faces an unprecedented drought and draft restrictions. The Neopanamax locks have lowered draft restrictions on ships by 2m and reduced the volume of daily transits by 20%, leading to a backlog of ships at both ends of the canal. While the number of vessels has decreased from a peak of 165 to 129, it is still 43% above average. These restrictions are expected to last for at least the next ten months, affecting container services and cruise routes.

For the largest container ships, around 2,500 teu of space cannot be used due to the draft restrictions, resulting in a maximum headhaul utilization of 84%. Many liners may consider diverting through the Suez Canal as a result. Smaller container ships can still pass fully loaded, but shipping lines may opt for backhaul trips through the Suez or Cape to reduce demand in Panama. The decline in container assets is expected to continue until at least the end of next year. Experts suggest that cross-industry coordination and collaboration are necessary to effectively utilize limited resources in the short and medium term.

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