Drought-hit Panama Canal must ‘adapt or die’ as water levels drop

The canal relies on rainwater to move ships through a series of locks that function like water elevators, raising the vessels up and over the continent between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

However, a water shortage due to low rainfall has forced operators to restrict the number of vessels passing through, which is likely to result in a $200 million drop in earnings in 2024 compared to this year.

The 50-mile (80-kilometer) byway moves some six percent of all global maritime commerce, and 2023 revenue is forecast at $4.9 billion, said Vasquez.

Meteorologist Alcely Lau told AFP that the country has “observed considerable deficits” in rainfall this year, boosted by El Niño.

The drought has forced canal administrators to restrict the waterway to ships with a draft of 13,11 meters (43 feet)—which refers to how deep they sit in the water.