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Panama Canal postpones sixth draft restriction to June 19

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Panama Canal postpones sixth draft restriction to June 19

Houston — The Panama Canal Authority announced over the weekend a further postponement on the introduction of tighter draft restrictions on vessels until June 19.

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The ACP said recent rainfall in the Panama Canal watershed eased water levels in the Gatun Lakes, allowing for continued transit at the current maximum draft restriction of 44 feet (13.41 meters).

The impending draft restriction -- the sixth for 2019 -- will limit the maximum allowable draft to 43 feet (13.11 meters) in the Neopanamax Locks.

It was first announced May 6 and had been originally been due to take effect May 28, but on May 22 this was postponed until June 12.

The fifth and current draft restriction of 44 feet (13.41 meters) came into effect April 30 and was announced April 1.

The continued tightening of draft restrictions in the Gatun Lakes is based on the projected precipitation and water levels. Further draft adjustments would be announced in 12-inch, or 30.5-cm, decrements, with advance notice of four weeks, the ACP said.

Ships arriving after June 19 with drafts exceeding the 43-foot level may be allowed to transit, depending on the Gatun Lakes' water level at the time, according to the ACP. If water levels are too low, ships with drafts exceeding the maximum allowable draft must trim or offload cargo in order to make transit.

Aframax and Long Range 2 vessels, which have a maximum draft of 14.9 meters when fully laden, will not be able to transit the Neopanamax locks at the 13.11-meter restriction.

Suezmaxes, when fully laden, cannot transit the canal at a 43-foot draft, as tankers of this class usually require a 50-foot draft for a full 1 million barrel cargo of 43 API crude.

For dry bulk, Neopanamax and Capesize ships cannot transit the canal at a 43-foot (14.33-meter) draft, as they require maximum drafts of 15 meters and 20 meters, respectively.

Clean Medium Range and LR1 tankers, dirty Panamax tankers and all LNG tanker classes can transit fully laden at the restricted 43-foot (14.33-meter) draft. Handysize, Supramax and Ultramax, and Panamax size dry bulk carriers, with maximum drafts of 10 meters, 11 meters and 12 meters, respectively, will be able to pass through the restricted 13.11-meter maximum draft.

--Marieke Alsguth, marieke.alsguth@spglobal.com

--Edited by Alisdair Bowles, alisdair.bowles@spglobal.com