The International Chamber of Shipping has submitted comments to the Panama Canal Authority in response to its public consultation on revised proposals to modify Panama Canal tolls.
The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) is the principal international trade association for shipowners, representing all sectors and trades including containership operators, tanker operators and dry bulk carriers, as well as specialised trades such as chemical carriers and car carriers. The membership of ICS comprises national shipowners’ associations from 36 countries, and represents over 80% of the world’s merchant shipping tonnage.
Reference is made to the revised proposal to amend Panama Canal tolls announced on 26 June 2012 by the Board of Directors of the Panama Canal Authority (PCA Board). ICS is appreciative that the PCA Board has made some effort to give the international shipping industry more time to adjust to the proposed increases by moving the implementation dates to October 2012 and October 2013, respectively.
However we are disappointed that the majority of the points on the initial proposal made in our comments to the May public consultation have not been addressed. In particular, our observation that no account has been taken of the impact of the planned increases on shipping companies themselves, or of rises in other costs associated with the use of the Panama Canal, despite the fact that many of the sectors affected by the price rises are still struggling to survive in an extremely weak market.
We therefore repeat our request that the current proposal is rescinded altogether, in view of the continuing crisis, and the fact that, as we observed in our previous comments, Canal revenues are currently very healthy and there is no pressing financial need for increases. The PCA and the international shipping industry would then be afforded the time and space to work together to develop a toll structure that can be to the benefit of all parties over the longer term, to be introduced when the expansion project is completed in late 2014.
Finally, ICS would like once again to thank the Panama Canal Authority for their efforts to maintain a dialogue with industry concerning their plans for changes to toll structures, including the formal consultation period and the recent visit of representatives of the PCA to our offices. We note that discussion is still open for a future toll structure, to be introduced in 2014, and we welcome the opportunity to engage constructively. However, we respectfully request that in future consultations, industry is given the opportunity to comment substantively on ideas for toll proposals before the opening of the formal 30 day consultation period. In addition, we believe that it is important that if the PCA has ideas that they wish to discuss or present informally to industry, that these are shared in written form in advance of any face to face meeting. At the very least it would be helpful if the PCA could provide a formal agenda in advance of the meeting. This will allow discussion to be more structured, substantive and productive, and allow for fewer surprises when the formal proposal is finally announced.