Panama Canal unruffled by CMA CGM rerouting
An executive with the Panama Canal Authority said he was unworried about the prospect of shipping lines diverting cargo away from the canal to avoid paying higher tolls.
Rodolfo Sabonge, director of corporate planning and marketing for the authority, told the Journal of Commerce Monday that the toll increases were set two years ago and that the shipping industry has had time to adjust to and plan for them.
The increases are meant to pay in part for an expansion to the canal, one that will see a third, wider set of locks built to accommodate larger classes of containerships.
On Friday, American Shipper reported that CMA CGM was routing the return leg of its PEX2 service between Asia and the Caribbean around the tip of Africa rather than back through the Panama Canal to avoid paying canal transit fees twice. The French carrier said the move would save up to $200,000 per sailing. Laurent Falgui're, CMA CGM’s vice president of Caribbean and Latin American lines, said the cost of transiting the canal a second time, with limited cargo aboard headed back to Asia, was too much of a financial burden to bear.
Sabonge told JOC that routing ships in such a way as to avoid the canal was a short-term solution given that bunker prices are currently low and likely to rise. But Falgui're told American Shipper that the new PEX2 route was still viable even if bunker costs go up, as the service could slow steam and gain schedule flexibility on the return leg.
The cost to transit the canal for CMA’s ships on the PEX2 service will rise from roughly $270,000 to more than $290,000 in May, when the toll increases kick in.