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Outcry As Panama Canal Hikes Transit Rates

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

01 June 2012

The Panama Canal Authority has received criticism in response to proposals to hike tolls by between 5% and 7.5% on commercial vessels passing through the waterway.

As part of the consultation process, completed on May 23, 2012, Japan, Chile and Ecuador in particular voiced concerns about the short timeframe provided before the new rates come into force, with the hikes due to be phased in over a period of just over a year, starting in July 2012.

Japan said it was "seriously concerned" about the impact the new rates would have on the nation's shipping industry, as the second largest user of the Canal. Chile, the third largest user, concurred with Ecuador in calling for a greater transitional period, with the Ecuadorian shipping industry calling for the hikes to be deferred by five years to allow time for the sector to adapt.

In announcing the proposals, Alberto Aleman Zubieta, the Canal Authority Administrator and CEO, said the proposals were aimed at aligning the Panama Canal tolls "to the value, benefit and quality the route provides", whilst maintaining the competitiveness of the canal.

The proposals would increase the number of different tolls by vessel type from eight to eleven. The tanker segment would be broken down into three distinct categories, establishing new rates for container/breakbulk vessels, and incorporating roll-on/roll-off vehicles into the vehicle carrier segment. Once in place, the market segmentation scheme would be partitioned as such: full container, reefer, dry bulk, passenger, vehicle carrier and ro-ro, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, general cargo and others.

Following the consultation, the Authority has confirmed the hikes would include general cargo, container/breakbulk, dry bulk, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, vehicle carrier and ro-ro, and the segment known as others. The most significant adjustment, Zubieta said, would impact tankers, chemical tankers and general cargo. Tanker ships for instance, which pay a rate of USD4.46 for the first 10,000 tons, would be subject to a toll of USD4.68 from July 2012, and USD4.92 starting July 2013, he said.

TAGS: marine

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