Panama City, Panama, November 10, 2015 – The Panama Canal continues to experience unseasonably high demand and is taking several steps to expedite traffic, decrease Canal Waters Time (CWT) and reduce the current backlog of vessels.
The Canal has postponed non-critical maintenance work at the locks, modified its booking system, canceled draft restrictions, and assigned additional crews to operate the tugs, locomotives and locks.
The greater demand is attributed, in part, to traffic diverted from the U.S. West Coast and a higher-than-normal volume of ships that require additional security measures, such as tankers and gas carriers. The Canal has also seen a higher percentage of large and deep-draft vessels, which also affects CWT.
Weather has also slowed traffic. In the month of October alone, fog delayed 107 vessels. Drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon reduced water levels in Gatun Lake, increasing lockage process time.
“We have taken, and will continue to implement, measures to speed traffic and reduce wait times,” said Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Jorge L. Quijano. “Of note, this past year, the Canal saw record cargo tonnage and greatly advanced the Canal expansion, which is 94 percent complete and will double our cargo capacity.”
To further expedite the traffic, the Panama Canal will temporarily suspend booking slots for regulars available in the third period, for vessels less than 300 feet in length and for Just-In-Time slots for regulars. These measures will take effect November 12, 2015.
“We are working hard to improve the situation and are making steady progress, but it is slow,” said Quijano. “And we will do more to address the issue as quickly as possible for our valued customers.”
The Panama Canal will continue to monitor the situation, implement measures to speed traffic, and communicate updates as more information is made available.
About the Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is run by an autonomous agency of the Government of Panama in charge of managing, operating and maintaining the Panama Canal. The operation of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) is based on its organic law and the regulations approved by its Board of Directors. For more information, please refer to the ACP’s website: http://www.pancanal.com or follow us on Twitter @thepanamacanal.