Panama Canal Authority Restricts Draft to Vessels in Transit

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has released advisory to shipping containing a draft restriction for all shipping agents, owners and operators due to a lower water level of the Gatun Lake. 

Effective April 18, 2016, the maximum authorized transit draft is to be set at 11.89 m Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). Vessels loaded to drafts over 11.89 m prior to or on March 21, 2016, will have this restriction waived for transit, subject to safety considerations. Vessels loaded after this date shall comply with the new draft limitation, the advisory reads.

Vessels arriving with drafts over 11.89 meters, TWF, may be allowed to transit after this date depending on the level of Gatun Lake at the time of transit. Otherwise, they will be required to trim or off-load cargo in order to transit.

The measures are to be taken due to an anticipated climatic variability event related to climate phenomenon El Niño that has triggered a drought in the Canal Watershed, causing the water level of Gatun Lake to fall substantially below its average for this time of the year.

As in the past, draft restrictions are to be implemented in 15-cm decrements at a time, with each restriction announced at least four weeks in advance.

With the ACP monitoring the situation, the draft restrictions are to be eliminated as soon as Gatun Lake’s level returns to normal.

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