UHL vessels won’t transit the Panama Canal before May, 2024
The severe drought that has had a major impact on the water levels in the Panama Canal are restricting the movement of heavy-lift multipurpose vessels. Based on the current information, United Heavy Lift said its vessels will not transit the canal before May-June 2024.
According to the Panama Canal Authority, October was the driest since the earliest registers, 73 years ago. The drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon continues to impact the Panama Canal’s reservoir system and, as a result, water availability has been reduced. In October 2023, there was 41 per cent less rainfall than usual, lowering Gatun Lake to unprecedented levels for this time of year.
In its Advisory to Shipping No. A-48-2023 the authority said that from November 3, 2023, to November 6, 2023, the number of booking slots was reduced to 25, and from November 7 to November 30, 2023, the number of booking slots was reduced to 24.
In addition, from December 1 to December 31, 2023, the number of booking slots will further be reduced to 22, and from January 1, 2024, to January 31, 2024, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 20. For booking dates beginning February 1, 2024, and until further notice, the number of booking slots will be reduced to 18 per day.
Furthermore, United Heavy Lift said that the Panama Canal Authorities informed that the situation is not expected to improve until after the dry season of December-April. Currently, they are only allowing top customers to transit the canal to maintain water levels.
“The auctions for transit slots are currently at exorbitant levels. Our vessel type and size will not be able to transit the canal in the foreseeable future. Based on current information from the canal authorities, we estimate that the earliest our vessel type and size will be able to transit the canal will be May-June 2024,” UHL said.
Obviously, this disruption will have a huge impact on shipping in general, as voyages will be much longer, and voyages will be diverted to either the Cape of Good Hope or the Suez Canal, causing freight rates to increase.