Panama Canal lowers maximum depth limit on ships due to drought

PANAMA CITY, April 18 (Reuters) – The Panama Canal will impose lower draft restrictions on the largest ships passing through the key global trade route due to falling water levels at nearby lakes that form part of the waterway, the canal authority said on Tuesday.

The restrictions, which will take effect on Wednesday, mean so-called neo-Panamex container ships seeking to cross the canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans must comply with a maximum depth of 47.5 feet, down from 50 feet, forcing them to weigh less or otherwise transport fewer goods.

The new measures are due to recent drought conditions, the canal authority said, prompting the fifth adjustment of its kind since the start of the year.

Officials did not provide an end date to the measure, described for now as temporary, but said they hope it can “be lifted as soon as possible” once the Central American rainy season starts.

Reporting by Elida Moreno in Panama City; Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Sonia Cheema