More surcharges threatened at Panama Canal

With no end in sight for the lack of available water in Panama, more surcharges are being threatened for vessels looking to transit the canal over the next few months.

Marseille-based carrier CMA CGM looked likely to become the first major carrier to apply a new surcharge on shipments transiting the Panama Canal, a response to the ongoing reductions in capacity. The French line said that the series of reduced throughput measures introduced by the Panama Canal Authority in 2023 – with more to come – were causing CMA CGM’s costs to rise.

“The lack of precipitation over the summer has forced the Panama Canal Authority to reduce the number of vessels transiting a day. As a consequence, by January 1st, booking windows for transiting the canal’s neopanamax locks will be reduced by 30%. These restrictions, combined with an increase in the canal tariff implemented earlier in the year, are taking a severe toll on CMA CGM’s operations,” the company said.

Denmark-based Maersk has also warned shippers to prepare for delays at the canal. “We are closely collaborating with the PCA to secure the necessary transit slots. By scheduling transits between 30 and 14 days before arrival, depending on vessel size and direction, we aim to safeguard our transit schedule”, the carrier said.

Maersk noted that it had “limited” access to Panama Canal Railway services, which runs blocktrains between Balboa and Cristobal. This might enable an alternative container transport option between the Atlantic and Pacific gateways, Maersk said.