The Panama Canal began this Saturday to charge a fixed charge of up to $ 10,000 for the use of fresh water and another variable of between 1% and 10% of the toll, to face the shortage of the liquid derived from the climate crisis and finance future plans to ensure your full disposition.
“Water is scarce,” warned the administrator of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP), Ricaurte Vásquez, in a public forum last week, in which he pointed out that in this country historically it has been raining a lot of rain “whenever the Water was plentiful and free “but” history has shown that it is not so. “
FEES FOR USE OF SWEET WATER
The announcement of the surcharges for the use of fresh water and other measures, such as a fee for registration of a transit itinerary of between 1,500 and 5,000 dollars, were announced on January 13 by the ACP and entered into force on Saturday.
On the website of the interoceanic route, through which almost 6% of world trade passes, the charges for the use of fresh water are published: the landline ranges from $ 2,500 – for ships with a length greater than 38.1 meters ( 125 feet) up to 60.96 meters (200 feet) – up to $ 10,000, for ships with a length greater than 91.44 meters (300 feet).
The variable charge, of 1% and 10% of the total toll, is applied depending on the level of the Gatún artificial lake (1913), the main one that feeds the road, and ships with lengths greater than 38.1 meters (125 feet).
The Panama Canal, which joins more than 140 sea routes and 1,700 ports in 160 countries, reduced daily quotas from 32 to 27, to make water use more efficient and the transit service more reliable.
Vasquez has said that the surcharges for the use of fresh water will not be suspended once the levels of Lake Gatun are recovered, because they are a source to finance “the important investments” that the Canal must face “to give certainty to the water supply”.
No project has been defined in this regard, but ACP authorities have already mentioned desalination of water from the Atlantic Sea or taking the resource of a large dam in the surrounding area of Panama City, among others.
THE REACTION OF USERS
Eight of 10 shipping companies have said that “if this is what we have to do, let’s do it and do it now,” said Vásquez about the reaction of the users of the Panama Canal, whose main clients are the United States and China, to the application of the Surcharges
“We have talked with the various agencies linked to shipping associations. The maritime business understands why the reason (of the new charges) has been explained. This is critical.”
Vasquez, who assumed the leadership of the ACP last September for a period of 7 years, acknowledged that “some shippers complain that” the new charges are actually “a toll increase, but it is not.”
The Maritime Chamber of Panama questioned in a first reaction that the ACP has taken the measures without prior consultation with customers, and also claimed the urgency of its application.
“This surcharge was imposed only 30 days before its effective date, which does not give any opportunity to discuss it with the final customers,” Enrique Clement, former president of the Logistics Business Council of Panama, told Efe on Saturday.
THE CAUSES OF THE APPLICATION OF CHARGES
These unpublished charges on the Panama Canal were announced after the 2019 inter-oceanic river basin recorded a 20% reduction in rainfall compared to the historical average, the ACP said.
Studies also show that the temperature level in the area of the river basin has increased between 0.5 and 1.5 degrees Celsius, which has increased evaporation levels by 10% in Gatun and Alhajuela lakes (1935 ), which feed the road.
“Without adjustments and operational changes, water levels are projected to fall to levels that would affect the operation of the panamax locks (operational since 1914) and neopanamax (those extended in service since June 2016),” said the Canal Authority.