Panama Canal Postpones Neopanamax Lock Draft Restrictions


  • Postponed draft decrease extends fully-laden Suezmax transits
  • 49-foot draft restriction limits Suezmax tankers, Neopanamax container ship transits
  • Waiting times for transit decrease to six days southbound

The first draft reduction for the NeoPanamax locks to 49.5 feet, or 15.09 meters, in 2022 has been postponed to take effect on March 24, after it had been postponed first from March 1 to March 16, according to a recent advisory by the Panama Canal Authority, reports Platts.

Maximum authorized draft

Further the maximum authorized draft for ships transiting the Neopanamax locks will be decreased to 49.0 feet, or 14.94 meters effective March 29, the advisory said.

Restrictions to remain at 50 feet

The ACP first issued an advisory March 3, postponing the draft reductions due to recent precipitation in the Canal watershed, thus allowing the maximum authorized draft restrictions to remain at 50 feet, or 15.24 meters, until March 16, wherein the following day the Canal Authority would begin to decrease by 6 inches, to 49.5 feet. Subsequently, on March 11, the ACP issued a second postponement of the draft adjustments once again due to recent precipitations.

The ACP said it would continue to monitor the level of Gatun Lake in order to announce future draft adjustments in a timely manner.

Draft restrictions postponement 


The postponement of the draft restrictions allows for fully-laden Suezmaxes to continue transiting the Panama Canal, as the tanker class typically requires a 50-foot draft for a 1 million barrel cargo.

Clean Medium Range

Until further notice, Clean Medium Range, Long Range 1 and Long Range 2 tankers can all continue to transit the Canal at the 49.5-foot restriction, as well as dirty Panamax and Aframax tankers and all LNG tanker classes.

Dry bulk carriers

Handysize, Supramax, Ultramax and Panamax dry bulk carriers, with maximum drafts of 10 meters, 11 meters and 12 meters, respectively, will be able to pass through the restricted 15.09 meters of maximum draft.

container ships

For container ships steaming on the North Asia-to-US East Coast route, all ships can transit the Panama Canal.

Neopanamax class

However, the larger ships in the Neopanamax class, which typically draws a draft of 49.9 feet if laden with up to 14,500 twenty-foot equivalent containers, will slightly exceed the maximum draft of 49.5 feet.

Transit times become a challenge

Shipowners for the Americas clean tanker markets shared waiting times have become a bit of a challenge, despite the ACP indicating waiting times March 14 at six days southbound and two days northbound for Super class tankers, which includes clean MRs and LR1s, half of peak 2022 wait times of 12 days on Feb. 1.

“I think the delays in the Panama Canal can affect a lot, you can postulate and book ahead but obviously that is not cheap and can vary a lot, one has to compete for these slots, which go to the best bid,” said a shipowner.

“The situation is a bit slow right now, a few ships that are crossing right now have paid [pre-booking] fees anywhere between $55,000 and $300,000 in the past month,” said another shipowner.

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Source: Platts


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