The Panama Canal, one of the world’s main maritime trade routes, announced on Friday it is launching a special auction slot on Saturday, as it battles a severe drought that has forced it to reduce daily ship crossings.

“The purpose of this measure is to provide greater opportunity of obtaining a slot for vessels in the Panamax Locks that have been waiting in the transit queue for an extended period,” the canal’s authority said in a statement.

Water levels in Gatun Lake, the rainfall-fed principal reservoir that floats ships through the Panama Canal’s lock system, have declined to unprecedented levels for this time of year.

Authorities last month announced slot reductions starting Nov.3 set to last until next February 1.

The naturally occurring El Nino climate pattern associated with warmer-than-usual water in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is contributing to Panama’s drought.

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