US – The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced an increase in daily transit slots from 24 to 27 vessels to accommodate growing demand and ease maritime traffic congestion.

This move comes as a response to the present and projected levels of Gatun Lake, a vital component of the canal’s operations.

In an Advisory to Shipping issued on Monday, the ACP revealed its decision to augment the number of daily transit slots, particularly in the Panamax Locks.

“Two additional slots will be offered through auction for transit dates beginning March 18, and an additional slot will become available for transit dates beginning March 25,” stated the ACP.

This adjustment signifies a significant increase from the current allocation, allowing for a total of seven Neopanamax and 20 Panamax vessels to traverse the canal between March 18 and 25.

The ACP emphasized that these measures aim to enhance accessibility for vessels seeking transit reservations, thereby mitigating potential logistical bottlenecks.

“We are continuously monitoring the water situation and remain committed to implementing necessary measures to ensure efficient canal operations,” affirmed a ACP spokesperson.

The authority reassured stakeholders that it would promptly communicate any further changes as conditions evolve.

Reflecting on the canal’s enduring importance to global maritime commerce, the ACP underscored Panama’s pivotal role as a strategic logistics hub.

“The Panama Canal will continue to uphold its role, not merely as a path between seas but as a bridge to a sustainable future, navigating through change with steadfast resolve,” asserted the ACP.

Meanwhile according to Merco Press, while the recent rains have provided some relief to the water supply challenges persist due to the depletion of the artificial lakes, Gatun and Alhajuela, exacerbated by factors such as the El Niño phenomenon and global warming.

The Panama Canal relies on freshwater from these lakes, with approximately 200 million liters discharged into the sea for every ship transit.

Declining water levels have prompted the ACP to implement stringent measures, including reducing daily transits and imposing cargo restrictions on vessels.

Despite fiscal challenges stemming from reduced revenue projections, the ACP remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring the canal’s operational resilience and sustainability.

In fiscal year 2023, the canal generated USD 3.344 billion in revenue from vessel transit and service provision.

However, the ACP anticipates a decrease of up to USD 700 million in revenue for 2024 due to the restrictive measures imposed amid past recurrent water scarcity concerns.

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