Houston — The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) announced an increase in the maximum authorized draft for ships voyaging through the Neopanamax Locks to 48 feet, or 14.63 meters, effective July 25.
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Previously the maximum draft was 47 feet, or 14.33 meters, effective July 8. As of July 25, vessels with drafts over 48 feet may be allowed to transit depending on the actual level of the Gatun Lake, or will be required to off-load cargo in order to transit.
The ACP said in its July 24 announcement that future draft adjustments would be made in a timely manner as it continues to monitor the water level of Gatun Lake.
Aframax and Long Range 2 vessels, which have a maximum draft of 14.9 meters if fully laden, are not able to transit the Neopanamax locks at the 14.63 meter restriction.
Suezmaxes, if fully laden with 43 API crude, such as Permian Basin-sourced West Texas Intermediate, cannot transit the canal at a 48-foot draft, as tankers of this class usually require a 50-foot draft for a full 1 million barrel cargo of this grade.
For dry bulk shipping, Neopanamax and Capesize ships cannot transit the canal if fully laden at the current 48-foot draft, as they require maximum drafts of 49 feet and 66 feet, respectively. Yet a significant majority of Neopanamax transits through the Panama Canal fall under a 46-foot draft regardless of the maximum level allowed, according to an ACP spokesman, so the canal does not expect any significant impacts or restrictions on customers at this time.
Clean Medium Range and LR1 tankers, dirty Panamax tankers and all LNG tanker classes can transit fully laden at the restricted 48-foot draft.
Handysize, Supramax, Ultramax and Panamax dry bulk carriers, with maximum drafts of 10 meters, 11 meters and 12 meters, respectively, will be able to pass through the restricted 14.63 meters maximum draft.
For container ships steaming on the North Asia to US East Coast route, all ships can transit the Panama Canal. However, the larger ships in the Neopanamax class, which typically draws a draft of 49.9 feet if laden with up to 14,500 twenty-foot equivalent containers will not be able to voyage at the maximum draft of 48 feet.