"The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has announced a series of measures to expedite traffic, decrease canal waters time (CWT) and reduce the current backlog of vessels as the Panama Canal continues to experience "unseasonably high demand." Non-critical maintenance work at the locks has been postponed, the booking system modified, draft restrictions have been cancelled, and additional crews have been assigned to operate the tugs, locomotives and locks. To further speed up the flow of traffic, the ACP is temporarily suspending booking slots for regulars available in the third period, for vessels less than 300 feet in length and for just-in-time slots for regulars with effect from November 12.
"The greater demand is attributed, in part, to traffic diverted from the US west coast and a higher-than-normal volume of ships that require additional security measures, such as tankers and gas carriers. The canal has also seen a higher percentage of large and deep-draft vessels, which also affects CWT," a statement from the ACP said. Weather has also slowed traffic. In the month of October alone, fog delayed 107 vessels. Drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon reduced water levels in Gatun Lake, increasing lockage process time. "We have taken, and will continue to implement, measures to speed traffic and reduce wait times," said Panama Canal Administrator/CEO Jorge Quijano. "Of note, this past year, the canal saw record cargo tonnage and greatly advanced the canal expansion, which is 94 per cent complete and will double our cargo capacity." "We are working hard to improve the situation and are making steady progress, but it is slow," added Mr. Quijano."