Skip to content

Panama Canal Imposes Shipping Restrictions to Cope With Worsening Drought

  • Capacity limits and surcharges are ramping up for most vessels
  • Water shortage projected to surpass 2019’s record low by July
The Pedro Miguel Locks area of the Panama Canal.
The Pedro Miguel Locks area of the Panama Canal.Photographer: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

A severe drought affecting the Panama Canal is forcing container vessels to lighten their loads and pay higher fees, with further increases in the cost of shipping cargo through the canal expected this summer.

The largest vessels will have to reduce their drafts — how low they sit in the water — by carrying less or cutting the weight of their cargoes as of May 24, followed by another decrease that kicks in on May 29. Some major ocean carriers have also announced new fees for goods shipped on the route as of June 1 in response to the canal restrictions.