New toll structure for Panama Canal set to come into effect in 2016

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In preparation for the opening of the third lane of the Panama Canal, a new toll structure was approved in April 2015 by the Cabinet Council. This followed more than a year of informal consultations with industry stakeholders, an open call for comments and a public hearing, with interested parties given an opportunity to provide feedback. Jorge Luis Quijano, the CEO of the Panama Canal Authority (Autoridad del Canal de Panamá, ACP), told local media that the new toll structure “safeguards the competitiveness of the waterway, charges a fair price for the value of the route and facilitates the goal of providing impeccable service”. Rate adjustments, which apply to both the existing canal and the new lane, will take effect on April 1, 2016, when the new locks are set to become operational.

The new toll structure establishes a basis for calculating prices based on different units of measurement for the different segments. Tolls for container ships, the largest segment transiting the canal by tonnage (34% in 2014), will continue to be determined by twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Pricing for this segment consists of a tariff for total TEU allowance of $50 or $60, as well as a tariff per loaded containers on board ($30 or $40, depending on the vessel’s TEU range).

Loyalty Scheme

The ACP is also introducing a customer loyalty programme for the container segment involving a preferential tariff system. Frequent customers will be charged reduced prices when a predetermined volume is reached. Four loyalty categories have been established, determined by the cumulative TEU volumes transited by a client through the canal during a maximum period of 12 consecutive months.

In the dry bulk segment – the second-largest by tonnage transiting the canal, with 26% of the total in 2014 – New Panamax vessels will be charged a price based on the vessel’s deadweight tonnage and a charge based on the amount of cargo on board.


Tolls in the tanker vessel segment, which represents 16% of tonnage transiting the canal, will be based on the Panama Canal Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) and metric tonnes of cargo. The New Panamax locks will have a capacity tariff per PC/UMS tonne starting at $5.17, and decreasing progressively to $3.25 after the first 45,000 PC/UMS tonnes. The cargo fee per metric tonne starts at $0.30 and falls to $0.10 after the first 80,000 tonnes. A fee of $5.31 per PC/UMS tonne is applicable to chemical tanker vessels, which falls progressively to $5.13 after the first 20,000 PC/UMS tonnes.

For liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers, the previous PC/UMS was replaced with cu metres as the unit for determining price. The laden rate for LPG vessels starts at $5.50 for the first 5000 cu metres, and is progressively reduced to $1.80 after the first 55,000 cu metres. In the vehicle carrier and roll-on, roll-off segment, a capacity tariff per PC/UMS tonnes will be applied depending on the load factor.

Tolls for general cargo, refrigerated cargo, other segments and displacement will continue to be based on PC/UMS tonnage. Panamax-sized cruise vessels are charged $138 per berth, while vessels transiting through the new locks will be charged $148 per berth.

New Segments

The new toll structure incorporates two new market segments, one of which is liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, whose vessels cannot transit the current Panamax locks. For a laden LNG carrier the first 60,000 cu metres will be charged at a rate of $2.50, which is gradually reduced to $1.96 after the first 120,000 cu metres. A ballast rate will be applied to LNG carriers transporting up to a maximum of 10% of the total cargo capacity. Shippers using the same vessel for a return trip through the canal will pay a laden tariff for the laden portion of the trip, and are eligible for a round-trip ballast fee if the return transit in ballast is made within 60 days of the laden transit.

The second new segment is the “intra maritime cluster”, which includes vessels that provide services in Panama (including tourism, marine bunkering and container trans-shipment services). Tolls for this segment went into effect with approval of the new structure.

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The Report: Panama 2015

Canal chapter from The Report: Panama 2015

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