The motor vessel Triton becomes the largest ship to transit the Expanded Panama Canal

The MV Triton becomes the largest ship to transit the Expanded Panama Canal, May 15, 2019. Photo: Panama Canal Authority

Panama Canal Postpones Planned Transit Booking Fee Hike

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April 14, 2021

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) will postpone its planned price hike on transit booking fees which were due to come into effect tomorrow.

The ACP made the last-minute announcement in an Advisory to Shipping issued yesterday, April 13.

According to the International Chamber of Shipping, the proposed changes represent a minimum cost increase per transit reservation of $20,000 (up 57%) and a maximum cost increase of $58,500 (up 167%). The ACP says they will now start on 1 June 2021, giving the maritime industry more time to prepare for the adjustment to the new booking fees.

The announcement from the ACP follows a joint letter sent by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA), and European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), expressing concerns over the speed of price increases that were expected to begin from April 15, 2021.

The letter, sent on March 17, 2021, expressed concerns over the “significant increase” of the fees and stated that the April 15 start-date given by the ACP was too soon for the maritime industry and canal users to be able to adjust. ACP has linked the increased fees to changing supply and demand conditions for the service it offers.

“We appreciate that the fee change is designed to adapt to changing supply and demand for the Panama Canal’s service and we look forward to establishing a productive dialogue with the ACP to develop a long-term pricing strategy to provide industry with predictability on transit cost,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten. “We hope to be able to hold a virtual meeting with the ACP to discuss and gain further clarity on these issues.”

The Panama Canal is one of the world’s busiest shipping routes. It has historically handled about 5% of world trade and recorded nearly 14,000 ship transits in 2020. Container shipping, its biggest user, accounts for about 35% of the total tonnage that passes through the canal.

The Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA) Secretary General, Yuchi Sonoda expressed appreciation for the decision to postpone.

“ASA is appreciative that the ACP will continue to review on the voices of canal users in their future canal operations and managements, based on a higher economic stability and transparency,” Sonoda said.

The ACP’s announcement comes as a relief to the shipping industry as it continues to navigate the crew change crisis, port congestion, and other COVID-19 pandemic related disruptions. 

Martin Dorsman, Secretary General of ECSA, said, “On behalf of the European shipowners, I welcome the decision of the ACP to postpone the application of the new booking fees. Especially in these times of high uncertainty, it is important for the shipping industry to be able to better prepare for these changes. We appreciated the good cooperation with the ACP and look forward to a continued dialogue”

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