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Maersk resumes Panama Canal transit service as rainy season approaches

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COPENHAGEN : AP Moller-Maersk will resume Panama Canal transits on an east-west service that was suspended because of low water levels. Panama Canal increases transits again as Red Sea still in crisis.

It will reinstate the OC1 Service between the US East Coast and Australia and New Zealand on 10 May after the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) added daily transit slots.

Maersk was forced to suspend use of the canal for the service in January due to low water levels and reduced transits.

It instead split the service into an Atlantic and Pacific loop combined with a land-bridge Panama Rail connection.

This set-up will be dropped and the service will revert to its single former rotation, operating with 11 ships of between 3,100 TEUs and 3,800 TEUs, according to Alphaliner.

In March, the ACP increased the number of vessel crossings on the back of higher-than-expected water levels.

Three additional slots were added for auction in March, lifting the number of daily crossings from 24 to 27. Transits are still well below the level before a drought at Lake Gatun forced the administration to restrict ship traffic in November.

Containership waiting times at the Panama Canal are lower than in the fourth quarter of 2023 but remain slightly elevated compared with 2022, according to Clarksons Research.

Average waiting time at a defined Panama Canal anchorage in the first quarter of this year was 23 hours, up from the 16-hour average in 2022, but still down from the 36-hour average in December last year, the shipbroker noted.

Transit restrictions have not been as severe as originally planned, with liner solutions mitigating some of the impacts, such as using the land bridge utilising the rail connection across Panama.

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