Shipowners call on Panama Canal bosses to ditch 15% toll hike

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Shipowners call on Panama Canal bosses to ditch 15% toll hike

Shipping companies are calling on the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to scrap plans to increase tolls by up to 15% this year.

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has sent a strongly worded letter to the ACP describing the proposed price hikes as "simply unacceptable".

ICS secretary general Peter Hinchliffe, said there was no "pressing need" for the increase given that "canal revenues were currently very healthy".

"While the ACP proposal analyses the impact of the toll rises on the competitiveness of commodity trades, no account is taken of the impact on shipping companies themselves, many of whom are forced to run ships at a loss in order to remain in the market."

He said while the Panama Canal was an important national asset, it was also an essential part of international public infrastructure crucial to the smooth operation of the global supply chain and this should be acknowledged when setting tolls.

"We therefore request that the ACP rescind the current plans for increases in the next two years and concentrate on developing a toll structure that can be to the benefit of all parties to be introduced in late 2014."

The trade body has asked for any future proposed increases to be given at least six weeks' notice to plan and assess the impact.

In January, the ACP told industry clients there would be just one small toll adjustment before completion of the proposed Panama Canal expansion project in 2014.

If the proposed price increases are agreed at a public hearing at the end of this month, they could come into effect as early as July 1.

Related stories: Panama plans new US$300 million bridge over canal


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