Japanese Ship Owners Oppose Higher Panama Canal Tolls

The revised implementation schedule issued June 27 by the Panama Canal Authority is not satisfactory, the Japanese Shipowners' Association said in comments submitted July 6.

Higher tolls that soon will be charged to ships transiting the Panama Canal are under attack by some ship owners, with the Japanese Shipowners' Association publicly announcing it submitted negative comments July 6 about the revised proposal from the Panama Canal Authority (http://www.pancanal.com/eng/). The authority's board proposed on June 26 to defer implementing the new tolls until October 2012 and October 2013, saying in its announcement that the delay "acknowledges the importance of preserving the Canal's competitiveness and value to the market, provides additional time to the industry to make pertinent pricing adjustments, while always considering the Authority's interests."

The revised tolls adjustment will apply only to general cargo, dry bulk, tanker, chemical tanker, LPG, vehicle carrier, and ro-ro.

The Japanese Shipowners' Association, a national group representing 100 Japanese shipping companies, said it's "addressing the issues in close communication with the Japanese government" and considers the toll increases disproportionate, even considering the cost of the current canal expansion. The association also said it "understands that many comments by other parties expressed similar concerns" to the Panama Canal Authority.

"Although JSA appreciates this action, it is very marginal and does very little to obviate the cost penalties to the shipping industry," the association's release states, "which will apply if the ACP plans are implemented in their present form, especially under the current circumstances." These include, it said:

  • Shipping companies' operating losses exceeded $6 billion in 2011.
  • The canal authority's tolls rose from 2006 to 2011 by 10.4 percent per year for container ships, 8.6 percent per year for tankers, and 7.9 percent per year for dry bulk and car carriers.

The association said the Panama Canal Authority should withdraw its proposal for toll increases in 2012 and 2013. The canal expansion costs can be recovered within several years after the expansion is completed, "and our study indicates that it can be possible without such extensive and frequent toll increases," the association contends.

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