Panama Canal Gradually Resuming Normal Operations


Rising water levels in the Panama Canal have ignited optimism for a potential resumption of normal operations for container shipping following over a year of restrictions due to an intense drought. 

However, experts caution that while the situation is improving, it is still far from returning to pre-restriction conditions. From May 16 onwards, the Panama Canal Authority has increased the daily quota of ships permitted to transit the waterway from 24 to 31.

Peter Sand, Chief Analyst at the Oslo-based firm Xeneta, suggests that this increase will offer limited relief for container shipping services, corresponding to additional slots in the smaller Panamax locks. However, a more significant change is expected on June 1, with an extra transit slot for larger Neopanamax ships (including container ships) will raise the daily total to 32. In addition, authorities plan to increase the draft limits for Neopanamax ships from 44 feet to 45 feet on June 15, edging it closer to the standard limit of 50 feet. The water shortage in the Panama Canal has significantly affected scheduling reliability and spot rates.

As the Panama Canal gradually moves towards normal operations, Sand advises businesses to brace themselves for a slow recovery that hinges on unpredictable factors such as rainfall. While expectations for a return to 'normal' are high, the reality may differ.