The Panama Canal Authority has announced increases to both the maximum authorised draft and length for vessels using the Neopanamax locks.
In an advisory dated 9 June, the Canal Authority announced: ‘Based on the present and projected level of Gatun Lake for the upcoming weeks, the maximum authorised draft in the Neopanamax locks will be 15.24 metres (50.0 feet) TFW effective immediately. This draft limit will remain until further notice.’
Earlier, on 21 May, the Canal Authority also announced that the maximum length overall for commercial and non-commercial vessels acceptable for regular transits of the Neopanamax locks has been increased to 370.33 metres (1,215 feet).
The advisory, signed by Boris Moreno Vásquez, the Acting Vice President for Operations, added: ‘Vessels with maximum length overall exceeding 367.28 metres (1205 feet) shall be equipped with a fully operational bow thruster during transit. Otherwise, they may be assigned additional resources at the vessel’s expense and may experience transit delays.
‘Vessels with maximum length overall exceeding 367.28 metres (1205 feet) will be assigned an additional tug to assist when making the approach into Agua Clara lock from Gatun Lake (northbound). This tugboat assistance will be charged in addition to the standard tug tariff applicable to the vessel.’
The expansion progamme at the Panama Canal has enabled the waterway to handle bigger ships and a greater throughput of vessels which, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, helped to generate more bunker demand. Panama did see a drop in bunker sales in 2020 – but a year-on-year surge of 18.9% in May this year suggests that its bunker market could be back on track for further growth.