The Panama Canal Authority is set to postpone drought restrictions with the onset of torrential downpours predicted in the next few days.
The Panama Canal Authority said it has been consistently monitoring the progression of meteorological events impacting water supply in the canal watershed, which might intensify with the onset of the El Nino phenomenon.
The sanctions came into place following a declared state of environmental emergency by the cabinet council on 30 May 2023.
The Government of Panama were prewarning the nation and stated that “evaporation and lack of rain are the preambles to the arrival of a possible El Niño Phenomenon, which would reduce the production of water for human consumption and agricultural activity throughout the entire country.”
Reuters reported that the Panama Canal will postpone depth restrictions that were set to affect the largest ships crossing the key waterway.
Panama’s economy is largely centred on an established business sector, that contributes for around 80% of GDP, with the Panama Canal being the most important economic contributor.
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According to the International Trade Administration (ITA) the revenue received from canal tolls amounted $3 billion in 2021 as a result of the Panama Canal servicing more than 144 nautical routes linking 160 nations and reaching nearly 1,700 ports worldwide.
El Niño, a phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean, causes temperatures to rise above average. El Niño is anticipated to raise global temperatures this year per CNN, potentially making 2023 or 2024 the warmest period on record.
The potential restrictions were set to remain the same and are as follows: “ships passing the newest Neopanamax locks must have a maximum draught of 13.41 m as of June 19 2023, dropping to 13.26 m on 25 June 2023 and 13.11 m on July 19 2023, a considerable decrease from the maximum draught of 15.24 m.
By July 19, the old Panamax locks will be able to accommodate ships with draughts as low as 11.73 metres.
In reference to new weather forecasts, ‘rains are expected to dump between 70mm and 80mm of precipitation’ and as reported by Reuters, the administration did not specify until what point the postponed sanctions will reverse.