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Crippling drought forces the Panama Canal to impose further draft limits

PortandTerminal.com, May 1, 2019

Panama has been hit by its worst drought in 100 years. To cope with lower water levels, the administrators of the Panama Canal have had to apply restrictions on the draft of ships passing through it. The latest limits are the fifth in that they have had to be imposed in recent weeks.

For every 1 foot of draft restriction, ships passing through the canal have to reduce their cargo load by 2,000 tons

The vessel draft restrictions mean that large vessels, mainly from the United States and China – the main customers of the canal – must pass with less cargo, which translates into lower revenues during transits. For every 1 foot of draft restriction, ships passing through the canal have to reduce their cargo load by 2,000 tons.

“These low levels in the Panama Canal are the product of four or five months of almost ‘zero’ precipitation,” one official told The Associated Press. “It really has been the driest dry season we’ve had in the history of the canal, and the flow of rivers to the lake has 60% flow deficits.”

The climatic phenomenon known as El Niño is the cause of the drought. Livestock and farming have been hit especially hard.

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