The administrator of the Panama Canal, Ricaurte Vásquez Morales, spoke to the media in a press conference held today to address the current situation of the interoceanic waterway. In this event, Vásquez presented the measures intended to maintain the service to customers, the events that affect the operation and the prospects of the Channel in the short, medium and long term.
The Administrator emphasized that, despite the new challenges, the majority of customers continue to choose the route through the Panama Canal. It has even been noticed between waiting times, restrictions on vessel drafts and adjustments to the prices of some specific reserves through auctions.
The Panama Canal, as part of its constitutional mandate, has taken preventive measures to guarantee the supply of fresh water for the consumption of the Panamanian population and for transit next summer, which is expected to begin in December and will extend until April 2024. These measures are essential to meet the needs of human consumption in Panama, where about 2.5 million people depend on the supply from the Canal’s reservoirs.
The increase in water demand due to the expansion of the Canal and increasing variability in rainfall patterns, especially in 2023, have also created many challenges for the Canal basin.
These measures, which were communicated to customers through personal communication on July 23, consider a reduction in the average number of daily trips through the Panamax locks from 36 to 32, without affecting the draft of these ships. In the case of the Neopanamax locks, they will maintain a maximum available draft of 44 feet for the coming months. Other steps include cross-filling or transfer.
Since 2020, the Canal has implemented the Water Program, an initiative that includes the identification and implementation of a series of projects that, together, will guarantee the availability of water to supply the population and guarantee the operations of interoceanic waterway. 50 years.
In this sense, the specialists of the Panama Canal together with the United States Corps of Engineers (USACE) have confirmed that the technical solutions within the jurisdiction of the Panama Canal are not sufficient to meet the growing demand for human consumption and travel. However, there are external solutions, which are not part of the Panama Canal Hydrographic Basin, and have been studied as long-term solutions, including the Indio and Bayano Rivers.
In this regard, Vásquez recalled that Law No. 28 prohibits the Canal from building reservoirs. However, “that does not mean that we did not study the Indio River. We changed the scale of the size of the Indio River, which is equal to the size of Lake Alhajuela, with the capacity to operate based on the need of the population and the operation of the waterway.”
He also mentioned that the Canal is developing the final details of this project so that anyone who does it can bid on these conditions. The Administrator explained that, by May 2024, the USACE should provide final results; to start construction in the summer of 2025. “The experience of the Canal has been invaluable in the work of the community and that will help us to create a project with a sustainable approach,” added Vásquez.
Commitment to transparency and quality
The Administrator reiterated the Panama Canal’s commitment to transparency and quality of service to its clients, as well as providing greater contributions to the country.
In this sense, Dr. Vásquez that “for this fiscal year 2023, the budgeted income in terms of rights per ton and surpluses should not be affected by the traffic and draft restrictions imposed since February of this year.”
The Panama Canal continues its initiatives to promote sustainable development, customer satisfaction and guarantee the well-being of the Panamanian population.