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Japan owners question higher Panama Canal tolls for ships not benefitting from expansion

Japan owners question higher Panama Canal tolls for ships not benefitting from expansion
The Japanese Shipowners Association (JSA) has questioned new, higher Panama Canal tolls for vessels that will not benefit from the expanded canal, at a public hearing on the proposed new toll structure.

Panama Canal Authorities  (ACP) held a public hearing 27 February on its proposal for a new toll structure, following more than a year of informal consultations with representatives from various industry segments.

"The public hearing is a very important step in this process. We want to ensure that the new toll structure is appropriately informed by all interested parties and that once approved, it is reflective of the canal’s value and our efforts to continually improve its service responsiveness while charging a fair market price,” said ACP Administrator/ceo Jorge L.Quijano.

After a month of revision, the ACP will present a final proposal to its board of directors. The new toll structure is expected to be formally announced by Panama’s Cabinet Meeting by mid-April 2015.

JSA vice president Osamu Suzuki noted that “some of the requests made during the consultation process have been reflected on the official proposal.” However, while appreciating “ACP's continuous effort to ensure stability, transparency and foreseeability of the toll rates in future through consistent dialogue with the user groups” Suzuki said that JSA believes, “there is little rationale to increase the toll rates for those ships with no benefit from the expanded canal.  We would request ACP to re-evaluate the area where the increase will take place” and should consider extending the loyalty programme to sectors other than container vessels.

JSA also mentioned that “other service charges applicable to the new locks, such additional cost items as tug boat and line handling are also very important elements to determine effectiveness of using the expanded locks.  We hope the ACP to indicate the cost for the auxiliary services applicable to the new locks as soon as they can.”

JSA has 110 companies-members and Japan is the biggest customer of the Panama Ship Registry.

The new structure will apply to the existing Canal, as well as to the new lane of traffic when the expansion begins operation in 2016.  Upon final approval, the adjustments – for all market segments, except for the new Intra-Maritime Cluster Segment – are scheduled to begin in April of 2016.

The last tolls modification was put into effect in 2012-2013 for dry bulk vessels, tankers, chemical carriers, gas carriers, vehicle carrier/ro-ro, general cargo and other vessel types segments. Container, reefer and passenger tolls have remained unchanged since 2011.The proposed restructuring calls for each segment to be priced based upon different units of measurement, while aligning with customers’ needs and requests, and modifying pricing for all Canal segments. For instance, containers will be measured and priced on teu, dry bulkers will be based on deadweight tonnage capacity and metric tons of cargo, passenger vessels will be based on berths, LNG will be based on cubic meters and tankers will be measured and priced on Panama Canal tonnes and metric tonnes.