The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced that it will extend restrictions on ships passing through the Panama Canal.

In a statement, the ACP confirmed that it will maintain a draft of 44 feet (13.41 meters), effective immediately, for several months unless weather conditions do not vary from current projections.

The ACP has been monitoring conditions following a declared state of environmental emergency by the Panamanian cabinet council on 30 May 2023.

The number of ships passing through the Panama Canal, one of the world’s busiest trade passages, will also be limited to 32 per day.

The Panama Canal has experienced an unusually long dry season over this year, with high levels of evaporation in the canal. The PCA says that the severity and duration of the dry season is “historically unprecedented”.

“As part of a worldwide phenomenon, in the last six months, the Panama Canal has experienced an extended dry season with high levels of evaporation, with a high probability of an El Niño condition before the end of this calendar year,” the PCA said in a statement.

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El Niño, a phenomenon that occurs in the Pacific Ocean, causes temperatures to rise above average and this year is anticipated to raise global temperatures, potentially making 2023 or 2024 the warmest period on record.

The PCA says that it has been implementing procedures to improve water efficiency in its operations, as well as conducting studies to identify long-term solutions to climate variability.

About 3.5% of the world’s maritime trade passes through the 80km canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the revenue received from canal tolls amounted $3bn in 2021.