LOGISTICS: Panama Canal Authority optimistic ops will return to normal in ‘25

Adam Yanelli


HOUSTON (ICIS)–The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) said current forecasts indicate that steady rainfall will arrive later this month and continue during the rainy season, which would allow the PCA to gradually ease transit restrictions and traffic could return to normal by 2025.

“All modifications to restrictions will be contingent on the forecasts,” the PCA said, meaning that if rainfall is less than what was forecast, restrictions could remain in place or be modified.

“Moderate precipitation is expected to arrive later this month and grow in intensity, which would allow the canal to progressively increase daily slots back to the 36 daily transits typically offered during the rainy season,” the PCA said.

The PCA began limiting the number of transits in August 2023 because of low water levels in Gatun Lake brought on by a severe drought that made 2023 the second driest year on record for the Panama Canal watershed catchment area.

PCA opened two additional slots beginning 18 March, and a third on 25 March, bringing the total to 27/day, after solid rainfall in the region recently, but transits still remain well below 36 under normal conditions.

The number of ships transiting the Panama Canal daily, using a seven-day moving average, ticked higher to 27 as of 8 April compared with 37 on the same date a year ago according to the most recent update at IMF PortWatch.

Wait times for non-booked northbound vessels edged lower to 1.4 days, and fell to 0.2 days for southbound vessels on 15 April, according to the PCA vessel tracker.

The average waiting time for vessels arriving without reservations this year has been just under 2.5 days, far lower than the 3.6 days experienced between January and March last year, and the 3.8 days recorded during the same period in 2022, the PCA said.

The PCA said the number of vessels in the queue waiting to transit is on par with the amount expected under the current conditions.

“The majority of vessels have reservations and routinely arrive early ahead of their allotted date to transit the Canal. It is common for these vessels to refuel or replenish supplies before they begin their scheduled passage,” the PCA said.

The PCA said more than 75% of vessels outside the Panama Canal today have reservations and therefore will transit the Panama Canal on a predetermined date with minimal to no waiting time.

Overall transits are at 60% of 2022 levels, the PCA said, and transits of product tankers and container ships have almost fully recovered, nearing 90% of normal activity.


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