Panama Canal fights water shortage with new measures

Large freighter going into the first of Gatun Locks in the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal Authority has announced new measures to sustain an operational level of water in the Gatun Lake, the main source of water for the waterway.

Rising temperatures and a severe drop in rainfall have meant a substantial decline in the level of freshwater in the lake.

Despite extensive water-conservation measures, 2019 was the fifth driest year for 70 years and saw rainfall drop 20% below the historic average.

The measures will come into force on the 15 February 2020. They include a ‘freshwater surcharge’ which will be applied to all vessels over 125 feet in length overall that transit through the Panama Canal.

There will also be a fixed fee of $10,000 per transit and a variable fee ranging from 1-10% of the vessel’s toll, depending on the levels of the Gatun Lake.

There are also a raft of changes to the Panama Canal’s booking system and handling service, including a new handling fee.

In a statement, the Panama Canal Authority said the measures will “provide reliability to customers” while it “implements a long term solution”.

It also says the measures will allow it to “better anticipate the number and type of ships transiting the waterway, and therefore allocate water resources accordingly.

However, it will also provide real-time data on current and projected levels of Gatun Lake to let customers plan their visits and make bookings.

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