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Egypt Embarks On Revenue-Grab At Suez Canal

by Lorys Charalambous,, Cyprus

14 February 2013

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has voiced "serious concern" at the Suez Canal Authority's (SCA) announcement that it will hike its tolls significantly for a second year running, and without considerable prior notice.

The ICS, a shipowners association that represents 80% of the world's fleet, reported that the authority intends to hike tolls by between 3% and 5%, depending on a ship's tonnage and ship type, from May 1, 2013. Earlier, in March 2012, the Canal Authority hiked tolls by 3%.

ICS Secretary General, Peter Hinchliffe, remarked: “Most international ship operators are trading in the worst shipping markets in living memory due to there being too many ships chasing too few cargoes. This is not the time for the SCA to be announcing increases, which for some trades seem very dramatic indeed, and which many shipowners will find impossible to pass on to their customers.”

“We recognize that, with pressure on Egypt’s tourism and its other economic problems, there is increased pressure on the SCA to maintain what is now the country’s biggest source of foreign revenue, but the effect of these increases spur owners to consider the Cape route as a serious alternative.”

The route via the Cape of Good Hope is already becoming relatively less expensive as many ships resort to slow steaming in an effort to slash outgoings and to deliver the reductions in CO2 emissions, which are now demanded by their customers.

Moreover, the entrance to the Suez Canal, via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, is already unattractive due to the continuing threat of Somali piracy, compounded by instability in the Yemen, the ICS pointed out, adding that recent events in Egypt, including riots in Ismailia and Port Said, are generating concerns about the security of the Canal itself.

“We are also disappointed by the lack of consultation that preceded these increases,” added Hinchliffe. “To the SCA’s credit, the Canal has so far continued to function smoothly. But the ICS will be repeating its request for full and proper consultation between the industry and the SCA, particularly whenever toll adjustments are being contemplated.”

TAGS: tax | marine | Egypt

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