Panama Closes the Canal When the Water Level Falls

Because of the lower water levels, authorities have imposed limits on shipping movement in the Panama Canal. Ship passage through the canal is now restricted by 36% according to the most recent rules. One of the busiest waterways in the world connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans: the Panama Canal. According to the Associated Press, canal officials have calculated that lower water levels might cost them anywhere from $500 million to $700 million in 2024. The losses are related to the tolls that cargo carriers have to pay to cross the Panama Canal. The country in Central America is currently suffering from drought, or abnormally dry weather. The 80-kilometer canal may see traffic slowdowns and decreased safety due to the weather.

 

The new limitations, according to Panama Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez, limit the number of ship crossings per day to 24. The most recent cut came after more layoffs during the previous year. When things were regular last year, there were 38 crossings per day. Vásquez told the Associated Press, “It’s vital that the country sends a message that we’re going to take this on and find a solution to this water problem.” He also mentioned that compared to the same period last year, the waterway witnessed 791 fewer ships and a 20 percent decrease in commodities during the first quarter of the fiscal year. According to Vásquez, the cuts were an essential component of the control methods required to maintain water levels high enough to allow at least 24 ships to pass each day.

 

Experts in meteorology attribute the drought to both El Niño and climate change. A warming of the surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean is known as El Niño. In Asia and Australia, this event often brings hot, dry weather, but it can also influence weather patterns in other regions of the world. Vásquez cautioned that in order to maintain the canal and provide drinking water, Panama will need to look for additional water sources. Over half of the 4 million people living in the country receive their water from the same lakes that supply the canal.

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