Photo: © Richardpross

All of the liner services that were affected by the limits on Panama Canal transits have returned to their regular operation, as of this month.

The affected services include THE Alliance’s Asia-US East Coast services, MSC’s Santana service and the Asia-US East Coast service run by Hapag-Lloyd and Wan Hai Lines.

These services were compelled to reroute, first through the Suez Canal and then to the Cape of Good Hope after the Red Sea crisis intensified at the end of 2023.

With the increase in the number of neo-panamax transit slots at the Panama Canal from May, carriers are bringing back all of these services to Panama which would allow them to reduce overall round trip transit times by 1-2 weeks.

THE Alliances omitted 37 sailings since end-2023 while MSC resumed the Santana service’s westbound sailings from 9 May, with a new rotation skipping the US East Coast to focus on Central America. Hapag-Lloyd and Wan Hai restarted westbound transits from 7 May.

Xeneta’s chief analyst Peter Sand told The Loadstar that the increase in canal transits has not fully eased the tonnage shortage caused by vessel diversions.

He said: “On 15 June, another slot opens for Neo-Panamax transits which is another step in the right direction. More importantly, it’s a matter of bringing the draught restrictions back to 50 feet, allowing fully laden boxships to transit.”

Drewry’s senior manager (container research) Simon Heaney told The Loadstar that while canal transits reached a six-month high of 26.3 in April, daily boxship transits averaged seven in April, lower than 8.4 last October.

Mr Heaney said: “As predicted, the easing of restrictions to the Panamax locks hasn’t altered the flows of container ships through the canal as the sector more typically uses the Neo-Panamax locks. At present, the maximum draught is 44 feet, while in normal conditions, the cut-off is 50 feet. It’s estimated that container ships lose approximately 350 teu for every foot of lost draught.”

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