More MPP operators cancel Panama Canal transit
Following Panama Canal Authority’s Advisory to Shipping No. A-48-2023, several MPP carriers and operators have decided to cancel traversing the canal until May or June 2024. United Heavy Lift got the ball rolling with several other players following soon after.
The severe drought that has had a major impact on the water levels in the Panama Canal is restricting the movement of heavy-lift multipurpose vessels. 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.
Last week, United Heavy Lift said that 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,” the company said.
BBC Chartering noted that, since the Advisory by the Panama Canal Authority, the situation is deteriorating further with waiting times having become unpredictable. “In view of this drastic development, we are, through our agents, pushing for the Panama Canal Authority to make additional official announcements,” BBC Chartering said.
“Given the current procedures where there are currently very limited auctions of slots, and no “non-booked” vessels accepted to pass the canal, we do not expect any of our vessels to pass the Panama Canal in a foreseeable timeframe,” the company added.
Consequently, voyages have to be routed via the Magellan Strait, alternatively Cape of Good Hope, with transit times extended accordingly. The company stressed that resulting waiting times and re-routing will have to be handled in accordance with the Carrier‘s Canals and Waterways Clause.
Similarly, dship Carriers do not expect the situation to improve any time soon and are anticipating its vessel type and size may not transit the canal before May or June 2024. dship Carriers are also exploring alternative routes adding that delays are inevitable.
These waiting times and potential re-routing will be managed in accordance with dship Carriers’ Stoppage of Canals and Waterways Clause as part of the company’s Booking Note.
On the other hand, Sevenstar Yacht Transport, part of the Spliethoff Group, has been successful in securing a slot for Panama Canal transit. The company has managed to secure a transit slot for MV Muntgracht.