The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has updated its customer advisory, removing some draught restrictions in September, which were initially set due to an anticipated drought caused by weather phenomenon El Niño.
The advisory sets the maximum draft at 11.89 m (39.0 ft) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW), effective 8 September, affecting 18.5% of vessels which normally transit the canal.
The maximum authorised transit draft is defined as the deepest point of TFW immersion for each specific vessel in Gatun Lake.
However, the latest notice states that water conditions at this time do not warrant the need to institute a second draft restriction, which was tentatively scheduled for 15 September.
The canal has postponed the need for the second restriction due to recent rainfall the Panama Canal watershed has experienced. It was initially going to be set at 11.73 m (38.5 ft).
Vessels arriving after 8 September with drafts over the limit of 11.89 m may be allowed to transit the waterway depending on the water level of Gatun Lake at the actual time of transit.
Should further draft restrictions be confirmed, the canal will provide notice at least four weeks’ notice in advance to allow time for customers’ proper planning.
El Niño is a climate pattern, resulting in periodic warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean and changing the pattern of rainfall in many regions of the planet.
Recently, it has triggered a drought in the canal watershed, causing the water levels of the Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes to fall substantially below their average for this time of year.
The last El Niño phenomenon involving similar conditions took place during the 1997-1998 season.