Story by Platts
Panama’s Cabinet Council has approved a new toll structure for vessels transiting the Panama Canal effective April 2016, in line with when commercial operations at the expanded waterway are set to begin.
The new tolls, which will apply to the two existing lanes of the canal and the new, third lane, modifies the pricing structure for most canal segments and establishes a new segment specifically for LNG tankers — a key new market for the canal once the expansion is completed.
The canal expansion project is effectively the addition of the third, wider and deeper shipping lane, ultimately allowing ships up to 13,000-14,000 TEUs to transit.
Tolls on most vessel classes and market segments will now be priced based upon different units of measurement, the Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, said in a statement.
For example, tolls on dry bulkers will be based on deadweight tonnage capacity and metric tons of cargo; LNG and LPG vessels will be based on cubic meters and oil and product tankers will be measured and priced on Panama Canal Universal measurement system (PC/UMS) tons and metric tons of cargo.
Container ships will continue to be measured and priced on TEUs and passenger ships will continue to be based on berths or PC/UMS.
In addition, a new “Intra Maritime Cluster” segment has been created. This includes local tourism vessels, marine bunkering and container transshipment vessels that do not compete with international trade.
The new tolls are scheduled to go into effect on April 1, 2016, except for the new Intra Maritime Cluster Segment, which go into effect immediately, the ACP said.
The toll structure also includes a customer loyalty program for container lines, a first for the ACP, under which frequent container customers will receive preferential tariff rates once a particular TEU volume is reached.
The ACP’s announcement Wednesday came a day after a key milestone in the canal expansion project was reached: the installation of the 16th and final gate for its new Pacific locks was installed Tuesday, making the expansion project now 88% complete.
The expansion has included the installation of eight gates on both the Atlantic and Pacific ends of the canal.
The eighth Atlantic-end gates was installed on April 1, the ACP said.
With the gates in place, progressive flooding of the new route will begin in coming months to start trials with ships, a source at the ACP said Thursday.
“The expansion project is still scheduled to be completed in December this year, but commercial operations will only start in April 2016, as there will be some tests that have to be run,” the source said.