The Panama Canal will increase its daily transit slots to 24 from January, altering a previous forecast to continuously lower the capacity through to February after months of drought in the region. 

The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) will raise the capacity from 22 to 24 vessels per day after better weather conditions than expected in November, meaning a previous advisory saying booking slots would be cut to just 18 a day from February will no longer be put into place despite 2023 becoming the second driest year on record for the Panama Canal Watershed. 

However, the allowance will still be far below normal circumstances, when 36 ships would be expected to travel through the vital global trade passage, and will continue to affect the shipping industry. 

Additionally, the PCA will be limiting customers to one booking slot per day to allow vessels to “have a better chance of obtaining a reservation”, though there will be some exceptions for quotas offered to carriers and vessels competing through the reservation system. 

Earlier this month it was reported that some carriers had begun taking alternative routes to avoid the queues and long wait times in Panama, with THE Alliance rerouting at least three Asia – East Coast services. 

The ongoing drought, caused by the effects of El Niño, has left Panama’s Gatun Lake, which provides the water needed to operate the canal’s locks, at a water level of 81 feet, six feet below the expected levels usually needed for the canal’s operations.

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