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Panama Canal Proposes July Toll Hikes

Created by HButler on 4/25/2012 12:10:05 PM

The Panama Canal Authority board of directors late Friday approved a proposal to raise tolls on multiple vessel types in stages over the next two summers.

The toll increases would not apply to container ships, but would cover containers carried by breakbulk vessels.

The proposal would modify the canal’s pricing structure to align canal toll charges with what the Canal Authority calls “the value the route provides. The proposal, which details the toll increases for eight different vessel segments, both those laden and those in ballast, is available at http://www.pancanal.com/peajes/.

Canal Authority Administrator Alberto Aleman Zubieta has made no secret of the fact the tolls would increase over time to help finance the $5.25 billion construction on the third set of much larger locks to be completed by 2015.

But he also has made it clear the toll increases cannot be too big, because the canal competes with other routes, including the Suez Canal and the intermodal landbridge from the West Coast to the interior and eastern U.S.

“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,” Aleman said in announcing the proposed toll increases.

The proposal increases the number of vessel segments from eight to 11 by Panama Canal vessel type. It would establish a new segment for container/breakbulk vessels. It also breaks down the tanker segment into three distinct segments and incorporates roll-on, roll-off vessels into the vehicle carrier segment.

Once approved, the Panama Canal’s new market structure would include the following segments: full container; reefer; dry bulk; passenger; vehicle carrier and ro-ro; tanker; chemical tanker; LPG; general cargo and others.

Under the proposal, the canal authority, known by its Panamanian acronym ACP, aims to increase the tolls for the following segments: general cargo, container/breakbulk (new segment), dry bulk, tanker (a redefined segment), chemical tanker (a new segment), LPG (a new segment), vehicle carrier and ro-ro (merged segment), and the segment known as others.

Tolls on the remaining segments would not be adjusted. There also would be changes to tolls applicable to small vessels based on vessel length, to incorporate adjustments not previously considered.

The canal authority will hold consultations with canal users from April 20 to May 21, during which it will receive formal written comments, opinions and written requests from interested parties to participate in a public hearing to be held in Panama City on May 23. “The ACP will continue its dialogue with the industry to develop a pricing structure that meets the needs of our customers — one that benefits them and Panama,” Aleman said.

- Peter T. Leach, The Journal of Commerce.

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