The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) said a proposal by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to increase tolls by up to 15 percent is "simply unacceptable."
Plans to increase toll charges for the Panama Canal are "rushed, excessive and likely to cause further problems for shipping companies" given the fragile state of economic recovery, said the shipowner group in a letter to the waterway authority.
On Wednesday, ACP held a public hearing on its plan, which it said would "align canal toll charges with the value the route provides" and said it would study those comments as well as written submissions.
ACP said its proposal will increase the number of categories for ship tolls from eight to 11: full container, refrigerated, dry bulk, passenger, vehicle carrier and roll-on/roll-off, container/breakbulk, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, general cargo and "others."
It's proposing on July 1 to increase the tolls for the general cargo, container/breakbulk, dry bulk, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, vehicle carrier and ro/ro categories, and the segment known as others.
It said the remaining segments –container, reefer and passenger – will not be adjusted at this time, nor will the price per TEU for containers carried onboard a vessel. There will also be changes to tolls applicable to small vessels based on hull length to incorporate adjustments not previously considered.
“This proposal continues to align the Panama Canal tolls to the value, benefit and quality the route provides, and maintains the competitiveness of the Panama Canal”, stated ACP Administrator and Chief Executive Officer Alberto Alemán Zubieta.
ICS called for the plans to be withdrawn and for future increases to be given with at least six months notice to enable shipping companies to plan properly and fully assess the impact of the proposed changes.
ACP's plan to increase on July 1 came "despite assuring industry clients in January there would only be one small adjustment to tolls before completion of the expansion project in 2014," the chamber complained.
Peter Hinchliffe, ICS secretary general, said there was "no pressing need" for the increases given that "canal revenues are currently very healthy."
ICS is the principal international trade association for shipowners, with member national associations from 36 countries representing all sectors and trades and over 80 percent of the world's merchant fleet.
Meanwhile, a report
today on the Iranian international news network Press TV
, focused on a proposal to build a new $30 billion crossing across Nicaragua that would compete with the Panama Canal. It said the plan has support from Russia and China. It said one of the country's attractions for a crossing is the low elevation.
The report said several routes are being studied by the Grand Interoceanic Canal Authority of Nicaragua, but one would have ships sail 119 mile up the River San Juan into Lake Nicaragua, then through 12 miles of canal to be constructed to the Pacific Ocean.
In contrast the Panama Canal is about 50 miles long. - Chris Dupin