Panama Canal to restrict draft to 49ft as of February 11th

Because of an unusually low amount of rain in December the maximum draft for a ship transiting the Neopanamax locks in the Panama Canal will be restricted to 49ft, or 14.94 metres, as of February 11th, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced this week.

The new restriction will decrease the maximum allowed draft in the Gatun Lake by 1ft or by 0.3m from the last maximum restriction, which was implemented at 50ft, or 15.24 metres on June 26th 2018.

The ACP said that the level of rainfall during December was around 90% below the historic average in the Panama Canal watershed, which caused water levels at the Gatun and Madden Lakes to drop lower than expected for the season. ACP will be implementing water conservation measures to minimize the effects of the lower water levels and to delay any further seasonal draft adjustments.

Vessels with drafts exceeding 49 feet may be allowed to steam on the Gatun Lake, depending on the level of the lake at the time. If water levels are too low, vessels exceeding the 49ft draft restriction will have to trim or off-load cargo to pass. At a 49ft draft, a Suezmax cannot transit the canal fully laden.

Clean Medium Range and Long Range 1 tankers, however, which usually transit the canal carrying naphtha and gasoline blending components, can transit fully laden at the restricted 49-foot draft.

The ACP also stated that it would announce draft adjustments for the Neopanamax locks in 30cm decrements at a time during the dry season, with at least four weeks’ notice in advance.