Rainy Season Arrives in Panama

The arrival of the rainy season brings a great sigh of relief in Panama helping to further reduce restrictions in the Panama Canal, and easing the effects drought on agricultural communities.

The Panama Canal Authority has announced that the canal has returned to normalcy with gradually ramping up the number of ships that pass through daily. And all of the liner services that were affected by the limits on Panama Canal transits have returned to their regular operation, as of May 2024.

With the increase in the number of neo-panamax transit slots at the Panama Canal from May, many carriers are returning to Panama which will allow them to reduce overall round trip transit times by 1-2 weeks.

The arrival of the rainy season is expected to help further reduce restrictions, which are currently on the maximum draft (water depth) of ships passing through the largest locks from 13.41. Authorities say that this depth will be increased in mid-June to 13.71 meters (45 feet).

The Panama Canal is a vital trade channel that usually handles about 6% of global maritime trade. Since the canal uses rainwater stored in two artificial lakes, which it shares with the city as potable water, in recent years it has been under scrutiny. 

For each vessel that passes through it, 200 million liters of fresh water are released into the sea.

Last summer (mid-march) Panama began to feel the effects of El Nino receiving low rainfall much earlier than usual. This created tension and backups in Panama due to shipping restrictions early into dry season. Scientist explain the earlier arrival of dry season may have been due to a major El Nino event. An event which has occurred three times in the last decade.   

However, the canal is not Panama’s only water struggle. Last October thousands of protestors opposed a mining contract in Panama for among many infringements, water pollution.

Protesters told Wbur Radio, they were protesting for their rights, and the rights of the communities surrounding the mine. Among their concerns were water quality and scarcity. Many people in Panama do not have access to clean water and millions of gallons of fresh water are used in the mining process. 

The mining contract was determined illegal by Panama’s supreme court. However, while the contact and the dry season are behind us, some believe Panama’s water issues might not be...

Listen to the full Radio report "Water worries in Panama extend beyond the canal" below