MPP vessels still take a detour as Panama Canal increases available slots
As the new shipping crisis unfolds in the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, a glimmer of hope for the ocean shipping sector comes in the form of an increased number of booking slots for Panama Canal transit. The Panama Canal Authority issued a new advisory to shipping, noting that it will increase the number of slots in the Panamax and Neopanamax Locks.
However, according to Container xChange, the Panama Canal has been effectively closed to multipurpose (MPP) shipping until at least May.
It is worth reminding October was the driest since the earliest registers, 73 years ago. The drought caused by the El Niño phenomenon impacted the Panama Canal’s reservoir system and, as a result, water availability has been reduced.
Subsequently, several heavy-lift, multipurpose operators have decided to stop transiting the canal until May-June. United Heavy Lift said that the auctions for transit slots have reached 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 earlier. It was joined soon by the likes of BBC Chartering and dship Carriers.
More water, more slots but MPPs take a detour
In its latest advisory, the Panama Cala Authority has added that it will increase the number of booking slots from the planned 18 to 24 from mid-January. The decision was based on the current and projected level of Gatun Lake, according to the Panama Canal Authority.
The authority gives priority to full container vessels, followed by LNG and LPG carriers, as well as RoRo carriers.
Intermarine has already started taking the scenic route through the historic Magellan Strait, with its Industrial Momentum fully loaded and en route from Houston to the West Coast of South America. The company has already said it will have more vessels taking this route soon.