The Panama Canal said beginning September 8th it will temporality restrict ships to a maximum of 39 feet (11.89 m) due to the drought caused by El Nino. This could affect about 20 percent of the water’s traffic transiting between Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
The Authority also advised that further restrictions will be imposed if the canal depths remain low. The months of June and July were the driest period in about 102 years. The water levels in Lake Gutan and Alhajuela, which feed the canal, are extremely low.
The current draft for ships is 39.5 feet and on September 8th it will be reduced to 39 feet and if the drought persists the Authority said will be cut the restriction to 38.5 feet. Dry weather conditions in March 1998 saw authorities take similar actions.
The Canal Authority gets more than $1 billion per year in transit fees.
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