The Panama Canal announced that as of 24th September, vessels will be able to transit with a draft of 50 feet, the maximum offered by the neopanamax locks, as a result of resource planning measures, efficient use of water and recent rains in its river basin.
“For the first time in 20 months, the interoceanic route has the capacity to allow ships to use the maximum draft of the Neopanamax locks, as a result of a combination of factors aimed at providing clients with a more profitable route for their business from the Canal. ”, Indicated the administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales.
A draft of 50 feet allows ships to transit with a greater amount of cargo, which translates into benefits for customers because it makes the transport of goods more efficient. As an example, each additional foot of draft in the neopanamax locks means for a ship the possibility of loading an average of 330 extra containers, favorably impacting its economy of scale.
In comparison, in 2019, as a result of the lack of rainfall, the maximum draft in the neopanamax locks reached 46 feet only until the month of October, while this year that capacity was achieved since last June and has progressively increased to 50 current feet.
This level of draft was achieved thanks to a combination of measures developed by the Panama Canal, both operational, planning of transit resources, and efficient use of water.
Actions included changes to the vessel reservation system, a fresh water charge, and water conservation practices in the operation of the interoceanic highway.
The level of rainfall recorded in the Panama Canal Hydrographic Basin since last July has also contributed, helping to supply the Gatún and Alhajuela lakes, unlike 2019, which was the fifth driest in 70 years.
“It is this variability of the climate that imposes the challenge of having a resilient water management system, and thus not depending on whether a year it rains little causing water scarcity, or whether it rains above the average, exceeding our capacity to to store water ”, highlighted the vice president of Water and Environment of the Panama Canal, Daniel Muschett. The Panama Canal launched this month the process to have an optimized water resource management system, to strengthen and modernize the current system and guarantee the water supply for half of the country’s population, concentrated in the provinces of Panama, Colón and Panama Oeste, in addition to the operation of the Canal for the next 50 years.