Panama Canal Announces Increased Capacity And Draft


  • The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced plans to increase both the number of daily transits and the allowable draft for vessels passing through the canal.
  • These changes will be implemented in stages, taking effect in July 2024.

Gradual Increase in Daily Transits

  • Starting July 11th: The daily number of transits will increase from 32 to 33.
  • Starting July 22nd: A further increase to 34 daily transits is planned.

This two-stage increase will add two additional transits to the daily schedule by July 22nd, with one allocated to Panamax locks (raising daily transits to 25) and one to Neopanamax locks (increasing daily transits to 9).

Increased Draft Allowance

  • Effective June 15th: The maximum allowable draft for vessels transiting the canal has been increased from 45 feet to 46 feet.

Reasoning Behind the Changes

The ACP cites the following reasons for these adjustments:

  • Improved Water Levels: Current and projected water levels in Gatun Lake, a key source of water for the canal’s operation, are sufficient to support the increased traffic.
  • Rainy Season: The arrival of the rainy season in the Panama Canal Watershed is expected to further improve water levels.

Monitoring and Adaptability

The ACP emphasizes its commitment to ongoing monitoring of weather conditions. They reserve the right to adjust operational actions if necessary, particularly in response to increased rainfall within the watershed.

Overall Impact

These changes represent a significant increase in the Panama Canal’s capacity. They are expected to benefit shipping companies by reducing wait times and potentially lowering transit costs. Additionally, the increased draft allowance will allow larger vessels to navigate the canal, potentially opening up new trade routes.

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Source: Pancanal