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Drought-stricken Panama Canal sees positive development

Canal remains “severely limited option” for dry bulk ocean vessels transporting commodities.

Krissa Welshans

December 28, 2023

1 Min Read
Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) recently announced it is increasing daily transits to 24 starting January 16, 2024, a positive development that replaces the previous announcement of only 20 slots for January and 18 slots for February. 2023 has been the second driest year in recorded history for the region, causing the Canal to sharply decrease transits. Normally, the Canal can accommodate 36-40 transits per day.

Following the driest October on record, ACP anticipated a potential worsening of the situation in November and December. However, as rainfall and lake levels for November proved to be less adverse than expected, coupled with the positive outcomes from the Canal’s water-saving measures, ACP was able to adjust the January numbers.

As such, the Canal implemented an operational strategy focused on water conservation and transit reliability in the face of low rainfall and the consequent decrease in lake levels. Specialists continue to closely monitor the current water crisis and will make adjustments as needed, ACP said.

Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition, recently returned from a board meeting in Panama, where they toured both the Atlantic and Pacific sides of the Canal and received an update.

He said that while the adjustment to transits is “a favorable development,” the Panama Canal will remain “a severely limited option” for dry bulk ocean vessels that transport soybeans, grain, and other commodities.

“Cruise ships, container vessels, LNG vessels, automobile carriers, and others pay considerably higher tolls to transit the canal and are able to provide more precise arrival times than agricultural shipments. As a result, agricultural shipments via the Panama Canal will remain significantly limited for the foreseeable future,” Steenhoek said.

About the Author(s)

Krissa Welshans

Livestock Editor

Krissa Welshans grew up on a crop farm and cow-calf operation in Marlette, Michigan. Welshans earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from Michigan State University and master’s degree in public policy from New England College. She and her husband Brock run a show cattle operation in Henrietta, Texas, where they reside with their son, Wynn.

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