The Panama Canal authorities have reportedly implemented several measures to help meet the unseasonably high traffic.

The rise in traffic is said to be due to diversion from the US West Coast and a higher-than-normal volume of ships which need additional security measures.

The measures implemented include postponing of maintenance work at the locks besides modifying its booking system and cancelling draft restrictions.

“Of note, this past year, the Canal saw record cargo tonnage and greatly advanced the Canal expansion, which is 94% complete and will double our cargo capacity.”

The port authorities have also deployed additional crews to operate the tugs, locomotives and locks to accelerate traffic, decrease canal waters time (CWT) and minimise the current backlog of vessels.

Additionally, the canal will temporarily suspend booking slots for regulars available in the third period, for below 300ft-long vessels and for just-in-time slots for regulars, effective from 12 November.

According to the authorities, the canal has been handling a higher percentage of large and deep-draft vessels, which also affects CWT.

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Panama Canal administrator Jorge L. Quijano said: “We have taken, and will continue to implement, measures to speed traffic and reduce wait times.

“Of note, this past year, the Canal saw record cargo tonnage and greatly advanced the Canal expansion, which is 94% complete and will double our cargo capacity.”

In October, the drought caused by El Niño phenomenon reduced water levels in Gatun Lake, increasing lockage process time besides fog delaying 107 vessels.

In September, the west lane of Pedro Miguel Locks underwent a major overhaul including gate repairs and maintenance on the conductor slots and valves.

Recently, a new safety study of Panama Canal locks was commissioned to Fundacao Homem de Mar (FHM) following the confirmation of a leak on the Panama Canal’s new Cocoli Locks in August this year.

The Panama Canal extension, which is scheduled for completion next year, is expected to create a new lane of traffic along the canal through the construction of a set of locks, enhancing the waterway’s capacity.

The expansion project is expected to double the canal’s capacity, having a direct impact on economies of scale and international maritime trade.

The authority is also planning the installation of a fourth set of locks which is expected to serve bigger ships that can carry 20,000 containers.