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Maersk doubles down on Panama Canal freshwater surcharge

Maersk risks irking the shipper community by doubling down on Panama Canal tariffs.

In the wake of the canal authority’s decision to raise a $10,000 per transit fresh water surcharge for all ships longer than 38.1 m, a measure that came into effect last month to fight an ongoing drought in the Central American nation, liners have had to ponder what to pass on to clients. Setting the ball rolling, Marseille-based CMA CGM and subsidiary APL eight days ago announced a $15 per teu canal transit surcharge.

Maersk yesterday came up with its own Panama Canal surcharge, twice as high as its French rival. Effective April 1, shippers will be hit with a $30 per teu surcharge for all cargoes transiting the waterway.

In January, acknowledging the climate crisis, the Panama Canal Authority announced a $10,000 fresh water surcharge for all transits, effective February 15. In addition, a variable fee ranging from a minimum of 1% to a maximum of 10% of the vessel’s toll will be applied. The percentage to be applied will depend on Gatun Lake’s level at the time of transit. The lake is a key part of the waterway, where water levels have dropped alarmingly over the last 12 months. The official lake level will be published daily, as well as forecasted for the following two months.

The Central American nation has battled enormous droughts of late, which saw the canal’s watershed being approximately 20% below normal levels last year and stark images of previously submerged trees reemerging along the edges of the expanded canal.

Canal administrator Ricaurte Vasquez told a news conference in January that the measures were needed to tackle the impact of climate change.

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Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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