The Panama Canal Authority, on August 28th, announced the suspension of plans which cut ships' maximum draft from the usual 12.04 meters (39.5 feet) to 11.89 meters.
Although the level of Gatun Lake is still well below normal levels for this time of the year, and the "El Niño" phenomenon is still present in the region, the Authority said that the amount of rainfall received in the Canal Watershed during the last few days-in addition to the water conservation measures implemented and the works done to deepen the navigational channel-has made it possible for the Panama Canal to suspend the announced restriction.
The Authority said it will continue to monitor and manage the water levels of Gatun and Alhajuela Lakes and might find it necessary should weather conditions change and the level of Gatun Lake begins to fall, to reinstate the restriction. There will be a four week advance notice if that were to happen.
The limit would have affected 18.5% of the ships that normally use the canal, which handles about 5% of global maritime trade, according to Agence France Presse.
This year has been the driest in 102 years in Panama.
Panama is undertaking an upgrade to enable the waterway to handle mega-ships. But the project, initially scheduled for completion last year, is now expected to be ready in April 2016, and has overrun its initial $5.25 billion budget.