Panama Canal finishes cleaning up after oil spill from MSC Boxship

The Panama Canal Authority worked to clean up an oil spill in one of the locks near Balboa after the MSC Kataya R. experienced a spill during transit to Ecuador. The vessel, held in the lock chamber during cleanup, was later moved to Panama Anchorage. With plans to increase daily transits and draft levels, the authority aims to ease transit for vessels as water levels improve.
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The Panama Canal Authority was working diligently to clean up an oil spill that occurred in one of the locks at the southern end of the waterway near Balboa. The incident took place on Sunday, May 26, while an MSC vessel was passing through the locks en route to Ecuador. Operations in one lane at the Miraflores locks were suspended after the oil was discovered during the locking operation, with crews containing the spill to one lock chamber and initiating a cleaning and recovery operation.

The vessel involved in the incident, the MSC Kataya R., a containership with a capacity of 4,100 TEU, was held in the lock chamber during the cleanup. The vessel, owned by SFL and operating for MSC on charter since 2015, is registered in Liberia and measures approximately 922 feet in length. The cleanup efforts continued throughout the day on Monday, May 27, with the vessel remaining in the upper chamber of the lock until inspections were completed.

By Wednesday, the vessel had been moved to the Panama Anchorage, and the Panama Canal Authority reported that the Miraflores center was reopening. The temporary delay in operations comes as the canal is working to increase the number of daily transits, with water levels in the main reservoirs exceeding those of the previous year. With plans to restore transits and increase draft levels, the authority aims to ease transit for more vessels as Panama enters its rainy season in June, which is expected to further improve water levels after restrictions due to a lack of rain in 2023.

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