Panama Canal Raises Rates Due to Drought Situation 

 Coral Princess

The Panama Canal has added new fees and changed its reservation system to counter historic drought levels.

“Due to changing rainfall patterns and historic low water levels at Gatun Lake, the main source of water for the waterway, the Panama Canal today that it will implement a series of new measures beginning February 15 to sustain an operational level of water and provide reliability to customers while it implements a long-term solution to water,” said a statement from the Panama Canal Authority.

This past year’s rainfall was 20 per cent below the historic average and the fifth driest year in 70 years. It follows several years of lower than average rainfall coupled by a 10 per cent increase in water evaporation levels due to a 0.5-1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature.

Without fee and operational changes, the Canal’s water levels are projected to drop to levels that would affect the Neopanamax and Panamax Locks. These new measures are intended to better provide reliability in water levels and therefore transit schedules.

A new freshwater fee will be applied to all vessels over 125 feet in length overall (LOA) that transit through the Panama Canal, and will include the following components: A fixed fee of $10,000 per transit and a variable fee ranging from a minimum of 1 per cent to a maximum of 10 per cent of the vessel’s toll will be applied depending on Gatun Lake levels at the time of transit (i.e. if the lake has a higher level, the percentage will be lower and vice versa).

The Panama Canal will adjust the number of daily reservation slots available to 27, replicating the total offered during lane outages.

The waterway will also require that each vessel pays its booking fee in full no later than 48 hours depending on the booking period.

A handling service fee will be applied to all visits for transit at the time they are created in the system. The processing fee will be applied as follows: For vessels 91 feet in beam and over: $5,000. For vessels over 125 feet LOA, but less than 91 feet in beam: $1,500.

The fee will be deducted from the vessel’s tolls invoice once the vessel begins transit. If the vessel cancels the visit and does not transit, the Vessel Visit Creation Fee will not be refunded. All visits created prior to February 15, 2020 will be honoured and will not be required to pay this fee.

“The decision to adopt such measures was taken following an evaluation of the impact of innovative techniques already instituted to save water used in the Canal’s operations. For example, the Panama Canal has been implementing cross-filling lockages, a technique that sends water between the two lanes at the Panamax Locks during transits and saves an amount of water equivalent to that used in six lockages each day,” the Panama Canal Authority said.

Norwegian Gem to Traverse Panama Canal for the First Time

Norwegian, Gem, ship

Last week, Norwegian Gem embarked on her first Panama Canal cruise, calling to 10 new ports and debuting on the West Coast when she concludes her itinerary in Los Angeles.

On Jan. 10, Norwegian Gem will be the 10th ship of the modern Norwegian Cruise Line fleet to cross the Panama Canal, visiting 10 new port cities during that sailing.

Among the new ports Norwegian Gem is sailing this season is Oranjestad, Aruba; Kralendijk, Bonaire; Santa Marta and Cartagena, Colombia; Puntarenas, Costa Rica; Willemstad, Curacao; Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala; Los Angeles; Manzanillo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; and Corinto, Nicaragua.

“We are very excited to showcase another one of our incredible ships on the West Coast, offering guests there a chance to experience our fleet and enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with cruising Norwegian,” said Andy Stuart, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line.

Norwegian Gem is the final ship of the Jewel Class. She welcomes over 2,300 guests each sailing and features one of the largest suites in the fleet, the Garden Villas.

These suites are over 4,000 square feet and sleep up to eight guests. They include three spacious bedrooms, a living room and a private garden with a hot tub. The ship is also home to a kid’s aqua park, a climbing wall, an expansive casino, over 15 dining options and 14 bars and lounges.

Norwegian Bliss Becomes Largest Cruise Ship to Transit the Expanded Panama Canal

Photo: Norwegian Bliss transits the Expanded Panama Canal, May 14, 2018. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Norwegian Bliss on Monday became the biggest cruise ship to transit the Expanded Panama Canal.

The 168,000 gross ton cruise ship has a total length of 325.9 m (1,069.2 ft), beam 41.4 m (135.8 ft) and draft of 8.3 m (27.2 ft).

Norwegian Bliss was delivered by German shipbuilder Meyer Werft in March and, last month, began a 15-day itinerary from Miami, Florida, through the Panama Canal and along the west coast of North and Central America to its final destination in the Port of Los Angeles, California. The vessel will this serve the Alaska region until the end of the cruise season, after which it will reposition itself in the Caribbean.


Photo: Panama Canal Authority

The Panama Canal expects to receive approximately 236 cruise ships through the Panamax and Neopanamax Locks during the 2017-2018 cruise season, which officially began in October.

In April 2017, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder became the first cruise ship to transit the Expanded Canal.

Norwegian Bliss third ship of the Breakaway Plus class of the Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and has the passenger capacity of about 4,000.


Photo: Panama Canal Authority