Panama Canal Completes Clean-Up from MSC Boxship Oil Spill

Panama Canal
The MSC vessel was held in the lock while teams worked to clear the oil spill (ACP photos)

Published May 29, 2024 7:37 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Panama Canal Authority was working to complete the clean-up of one of the locks at the southern end of the waterway near Balboa after an oil spill. The incident happened on Sunday, May 26 while an MSC vessel was transiting the locks bound for Ecuador.

According to the report, the authority suspended operations in one lane at the Miraflores locks after they discovered the oil during the locking operation. Crews were able to contain the spill to the one lock chamber and began a cleaning and recovery operation. The MSC Kataya R. (63,259 dwt) was held in the lock chamber during the cleanup.

The vessel, built in 2002, is approximately 922 feet (281 meters) in length with a capacity of 4,100 TEU. She is owned by SFL and has been operating for MSC on charter since 2015. The containership is registered in Liberia.



The lock remained closed all day on Monday, May 27, with pictures showing crews washing down the vessel and collecting the oil from the lock water. The authority said the vessel would remain in the upper chamber of the lock until the clean-up operation was completed and inspections were completed. No reason was given for the oil discharge. 

As of Wednesday, the vessel has been moved into the Panama Anchorage and the canal was reporting that the Miraflores center was reopening.

The temporary delay comes as the Panama Canal is working to increase the number of daily transits. The authority reported this week that water levels in the main reservoirs had for the first time exceeded levels of a year ago. With increased rain and waterflow the authority plans to restore transits. By June 1, the authority expects to be back to 32 daily transits and they are planning to begin increasing the draft levels to ease the transit for more vessels. Panama begins its rainy season in June which is expected to contribute to further improvements after severe restrictions due to the lack of rain in 2023.