Takashi Nakashima, the vice president of the Japanese Shipowners’ Association (JSA), has called upon the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) to lengthen the notification period before tolls are hiked and to more thoroughly listen to its customers.
In a very politely worded note, the JSA ran through a number of topical issues involving the Panama Canal.
The JSA noted and appreciated that the ACP and the Panamanian government agreed to and did in fact delay the introduction of toll hikes until April 2020, three months after the implementation of the January low-sulfur oxide in marine fuel global regulation.
As the original proposal to hike tolls would have occurred at the same time as the entry into force of the global low-sulfur regulation, the JSA requested that “any toll modification should be with sufficient (say, 12 months) prior notification.” The JSA explained that, especially in Japan, “many annual contracts with shippers” are revised in April.
The JSA then expressed regret that the 5 to 15% toll hikes for tankers, including oil, liquefied natural gas carriers and liquefied petroleum gas carriers, will be instituted as “originally proposed, by deliberation only from the point of view of the canal’s competitiveness, when the shipping industry is still in a difficult financial situation,” the JSA note said.
“We sincerely hope that the ACP will, in their future review, give a more thorough consideration to users’ voices and situations so as to seek a ‘win-win’ relationship between the canal users and the ACP,” the statement reads.
The JSA went on to note that, although there has been a continuous dialogue, it was “unable to deny the fact that there is some gap between the JSA and the ACP concerning the tolls issue — for the ACP, the canal is a Panamanian national asset and they ought to maximize the toll revenue in order to contribute to the national treasury, while, for the JSA, the canal is an important international infrastructure which underpins global trade, and the long-term stability of the tolls should be paramount.”
It was noted that there is a three-way yearly dialogue between the JSA, the Japanese Ministry of Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and the ACP. The JSA noted that the next meeting will be in November in Tokyo. The JSA stated that it intends to secure a “longer consultation period” than the current one-month period “in order to enable us to fully prepare submissions and to coordinate with our customers and other trade associations.”
On Sept. 6, the Panamanian government officially approved the modification of the Panama Canal tolls “following a recommendation from the Panama Canal Board of Directors.”
In a statement from the canal authorities, it was said that the new structure “enhances the canal’s ability to provide competitive service and reliability for the global shipping and maritime community.”
Ships affected include neo-Panamax dry bulkers, vehicle carriers, tankers (oil, product and chemical) and LPG and LNG ships. The proposed toll hikes were announced on June 14, kicking off a formal 30-day consultation period.