Panama Canal – Draft Restrictions

We have received from our local correspondents in Panama, FERNIE & CO, their latest report on the draft restrictions being implemented by the Panama Canal Authority:

Dear Shipping Agents, Owners and Operators,

As stated in the Advisory No. A-24-2015, effective September 8, 2015, the maximum authorized transit draft for the Panama Canal is being set at 11.89 meters (39.0 feet) Tropical Fresh Water (TFW). This date is based on projections that the level of Gatun Lake will fall below the minimum operating level without draft restrictions of 24.02 meters (78.80 feet). The Gatun Lake level as of 0700 hours August 11, 2015 was 24.46 meters (80.23 feet).

This restriction is further defined by stating that:

  • Vessels loaded prior to August 11, 2015, to a draft over 11.89 meters (39.0 feet) will be waived for transit, subject to safety considerations.
  • Vessels loaded on or after August 11, 2015, must comply with the restriction and may be required to trim, or offload cargo.

The 28 days of warning is specifically directed at vessels that are loading in distant ports to adjust their cargo loading plans, allowing them to comply with the draft restriction once they complete their lengthy trip and arrive to Panama Canal waters.

Vessels may load to drafts deeper than 11.89 meters (39.0 feet) up to 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) after August 11, 2015 provided that they transit prior to September 8, 2015.

Additionally, vessels that finish loading before August 11, 2015, may be allowed to transit with a TFW of up to 12.04 meters (39.5 feet), subject to safety considerations.

Vessels that load to drafts over 11.89 meters (39.0 feet) after August 11, 2015 and are scheduled to transit on or after September 8, 2015, may be denied transit and may be required to trim or offload cargo, depending on the actual level of Gatun lake at the time of the transit. If the lake level allows the transit of vessels at a draft deeper than announced, they will be allowed to transit despite not complying with the loading deadline.

Please keep in mind that, although this is not the first time that the Panama Canal has imposed draft restrictions, it is the first time this far into the rainy season. This unusual situation increases the degree of difficulty in accurately forecasting the level of Gatun Lake several weeks in advance, as it has to predict the amount of rain that will fall in the Canal’s watershed in order to determine the maximum allowable TFW transit draft. Based on this, keep in mind that further restrictions may be imposed, depending on future projections of the Gatun Lake level.

For any questions or regarding this issue, please contact : or
Kind regards,
Juan David Arosemena
On behalf of
Customer Service
Tel: 272-4595, Fax: 272-9331

Assureds wishing to obtain additional information pertaining to this matter should contact the Claims Department.