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Friday, February 23, 2024

Panama Refutes Canal Closure Claims by Colombia’s President 

The Panamanian government on Tuesday denied claims made the day before by Colombian President Gustavo Petro that the Panama Canal was closed due to lack of water.

The Panama Canal maintains open operations and free transit to facilitate global mobility and trade,” the Panamanian presidential ministry said on its X social network account (formerly Twitter).

“The information circulating on social networks is not true and distorts reality,” the Panamanian government added in a message addressed to the Colombian president.

The reaction from the Panamanian government comes after Petro said on the same social network that the Panama Canal was closed due to “drought,” a message he accompanied with a video showing ships apparently stopped.

The president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also referred on Monday at his morning press conference to the “special” situation the Panamanian route is going through, affected by water shortages due to drought.

The Canal, which uses about 200 million liters of fresh water for each ship that crosses its waters, faces a drought, the product of scarce rainfall due to climate change and the El Niño phenomenon.

The situation has forced the authorities to reduce from 40 to 32 the number of ships that can cross this route daily, which has caused large queues of vessels at the accesses.

According to the ACP, normally about 90 ships remain waiting to cross the Canal, a figure that is currently around 120 ships. It is estimated that 6% of global maritime trade passes through the 80-kilometer Panama Canal. Its main users are the United States, China and Japan.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) stated on Tuesday in a statement that the route’s commitment remains “unwavering” to continue being “a reliable and sustainable option for the global shipping community.”

“Our main objective continues to be the reliability of our service,” the ACP added. To save water, the ACP has also reduced the draft of ships by two meters, which has resulted in less cargo capacity per ship.

“We have to find solutions in order to continue being a relevant route for international trade service. If we do not adapt, then we will fail,” Canal Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez acknowledged recently.

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