Panama Canal Authority eased up the draft restrictions at new locks to 45 ft (13.72 m), as the water level in Gatun Lake starting to normalize after the increase of rains during the last months. The draft restriction was introduced in June this year, due to severe drought in the Gatun Lake by the El Nino phenomenon, which is a source of fresh water to fill the channel gateway. Initially the draft restriction was set to 43 ft, but in August the limitation was eased up to 44 ft. This week the Panama Canal Authority once again increased the allowed draft for the vessels passing through the new locks to 45 ft (13.72 m), as the water level at the lakes grew during the last months and there is no forecast for new drought.
The new locks at Panama Canal are designed for passage of vessels with draft up to 50 ft (15.20 m), and length of 366.00 m. Unfortunately, the low water levels still do not allow using of the full capacity of the facility. After expansion of the canal through it can pass container ships with capacity up to 14,000 TEU. However, currently the average size of new Panamax container ships on services, is about 8,500 TEU.
Since the opening of the Panama Canal on June 26, through the new channel gateways passed 238 new Panamax-class ships. Panama Canal Authority is not yet possible to draw traffic, and to date, the new gateways loaded with no more than a quarter of its capacity.
Despite the 5.25 billion USD expansion, the traffic through the Panama Canal for the fiscal year ended on September 30 did not recorded increase. According to a report of the financial year of Panama Canal Authority , the traffic through the canal totaled at 330.7 million PC/UMS, which is 3% less than an year ago.