Water levels at the lake that feeds the canal are at a historic low © AFP/Getty Images
Water levels at the lake that feeds the canal are at a historic low © AFP/Getty Images

Ships to pay extra charges to use Panama Canal

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 January 2020

Large ships using the Panama Canal will have to pay a $10,000 surcharge as part of measures to address low water levels.

The Panama Canal Authority (PCA) said the past year was the fifth driest in 70 years and water levels at Gatun Lake, the main water source for the canal, were at a historic low.

The PCA said the measures, which also include a variable fee that depends on water levels in the lake, were “intended to better provide reliability in water levels and therefore transit schedules”.

“Without fee and operational changes, the Canal’s water levels are projected to drop to levels that would affect the Neopanamax and Panamax Locks,” said the PCA.

The extra charges come into force on 15 February, when ships over 125ft in length will be required to pay the $10,000 “freshwater fee” along with the variable fee, which will be 1-10% of the vessel’s toll, depending on the level of Gatun Lake at the time of transit.

A processing fee will also be applied at the time of booking, which will be deducted from the vessel’s toll invoice once transit begins. If the vessel cancels the visit the fee is non-refundable. For ships over 91ft in beam the charge is $5,000 and for those over 125ft in length but less than 91ft it is $1,500.

“Together, the new measures will allow the Panama Canal to better anticipate the number and type of ships transiting the waterway, and therefore allocate water resources accordingly,” said the PCA.

Toll revenues totalled $2.59bn in 2019, up 4.4% on 2018, according to Statista.

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