MAERSK is deploying a “land bridge” in Panama to mitigate issues with the drought-affected canal.

Based on current and projected water levels in Gatun Lake, the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) has made reductions to the amount and weight of vessels that can pass through the canal.

“Whilst we continue to work closely with the ACP, moderating and aligning our operations to fit the changes, we have made changes to services to ensure that our customers are impacted as minimally as possible,” Maersk said in a message to customers.

The company said vessels on its OC1 service – which connects Sydney, Melbourne and New Zealand with Central America and the US East Coast – would use a “land bridge” using rail to transport cargo 80 kilometres across Panama.

Maersk said the move would essentially create two loops.

Pacific vessels will turn at Balboa, Panama, dropping off cargo bound for the Americas and picking up cargo bound for Australia and New Zealand.

Atlantic vessels will turn at Manzanillo, Panama, dropping off cargo bound for Australasia and picking up cargo for the Americas.

Maersk also said the OC1 route will omit Cartagena.