The Canal Authority said it had taken in account the feedback received from customers and shipping associations to modify the date. This measure will allow the maritime industry more time to prepare for the adjustment to these new booking fees, it said.
"The Panama Canal values its customers' input, as it looks for ways to bring value and improve our service on a constant basis," said Administrator Ricaurte Vásquez. “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."
The transit reservation system is an optional service offered by the Panama Canal that gives customers the possibility to transit on a specific date through the payment of an additional fee, thus guaranteeing transit. The rising demand for these slots, has prompted the Canal to reflect the value of this service in tariffs to meet current demand and supply, said the statement.
The announcement follows a joint letter sent by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA), and European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA), expressing concerns over the speed of price increases that were expected to begin from 15 April 2021.
The proposed changes represent a minimum cost increase per transit reservation of $20,000 (up 57%) and a maximum cost increase of $58,500 (up 167%) will now start on 1 June 2021.
The letter, sent on 17 March 2021, 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.
"We are reassured to see that ACP has responded to industry's calls to postpone its proposed transit reservation price increases until 1 June, giving industry time to fully prepare for these changes. The increases represent a significant rise in cost, especially considering the ongoing economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ICS Secretary General Guy Platten.
“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 the 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,” he added.
This announcement comes as a relief to the shipping industry, that has been navigating the crew change crisis and other COVID-19 pandemic related disruptions. The shipping industry commends the ACP’s decision and welcomes ongoing communication on issues central to preserving the global supply chain.