THE PANAMA Canal Authority (ACP) is postponing an increase in transit fees, which were due to come into effect on 15 April.

The proposed changes would increase the cost increase per transit by a minimum of US$20,000 (an increase of 57%) and at maximum US$58,500 (an increase of 167%). The price increases will now come into effect on 1 June 2021.

A statement from ACP said it had “taken into account the feedback received from customers and shipping associations” regarding the fee increase.

ACP administrator Ricaurte Vásquez Morales said the ACP looks for ways to improve its service constantly.

“We always take into account how the changes we make may affect our customers and will work alongside them to ensure that their feedback is heard, and our goals are aligned,” he said.

In mid-March, the announcement follows a joint letter sent by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA), and the European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), expressing concerns over the speed of price increases.

The letter expressed concerns over the “significant increase” of the fees and stated that the 15 April start-date given by the ACP was too short for the maritime industry and canal users to be able to adjust. ACP has linked the increased fees to changing supply and demand conditions for the service it offers.

On 13 April 2021, the ACP announced the postponed date for the new booking tariffs.  This change in the implementation date will provide the maritime industry more time to prepare for the adjustment to the new booking fees.

ICS Secretary General Guy Platten said the chamber was assured to see that ACP has responded to industry’s calls to postpone its proposed transport reservation price increases.

“The increases represent a significant rise in cost, especially considering the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“We appreciate that the fee change is designed to adapt to changing supply and demand for the Panama Canal’s service and we look forward to establishing a productive dialogue with the ACP to develop a long-term pricing strategy to provide industry with predictability on transit cost. We hope to be able to hold a virtual meeting with the ACP to discuss and gain further clarity on these issues.”

ASA secretary general Yuchi Sonoda said: “ASA is appreciative that the ACP will continue to review on the voices of canal users in their future canal operations and managements, based on a higher economic stability and transparency.”

ECSA secretary general Martin Dorsman said: “On behalf of the European shipowners, I welcome the decision of the ACP to postpone the application of the new booking fees. Especially in these times of high uncertainty, it is important for the shipping industry to be able to better prepare for these changes. We appreciated the good cooperation with the ACP and look forward to a continued dialogue.”