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Old 03-02-2008, 06:54 PM   #1
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PANAMA -- Blame it on inflation. The Authority of the Canal of Panama (ACP) announced that the rates for line-handling services are increasing 7 percent, effective March 1.

Every yacht transiting the canal requires the use of ACP line handlers. They're the guys in hard hats who toss down the monkey-fists, secure the eye-ends of your 125-foot canal lines over bollards atop the lock walls, and carry the lines into the next chambers.

The present "transit fee" of $600 for a yacht smaller than 50 feet (admeasuring length overall) will increase to about $642, according to the ACP's Marine Notice to Shipping. Yachts 50 to 79 feet will pay about $910 for the transit fee, up from $850. Yachts to up to 99 feet in length will pay $1,177; and yachts measuring 100 to 124 feet will pay $1,712 in transit fees.

So far, the ACP has made no mention of increasing the flat $850 "buffer" fee, the $450 "delay" fee, the $50 "inspection" fee or -- for yachts 65 feet and larger -- the $125 rental fee for the mandatory AIS device.

Yachts larger than 125 feet are still required to hire at least one locomotive, but the rate increase for each wire a locomotive uses will be going up a whopping 50 percent -- from $200 to $300 per wire.

Also increasing is the cost of hiring a tugboat, in case your vessel is incapacitated during transit. Those fees have increased by 8 percent, and the exact charge depends on which tug, and how long you need it. Before this rate increase was announced, tug prices had been averaging around $2,500 per hour.

What else is new? The ACP announced the possibility of new charges for yachts, called "hand lines" and "small boats" in the Panama Canal. Increased pilotage fees may be charged if a yacht in transit is found to have deficiencies, such as "insufficient sanitary facilities" or if the yacht's crew displays an "inability to relay" instructions from the pilot or transit adviser, according to the ACP's Marine Notice to Shipping N-1-2008, pages 54 and 55.

The ACP cited the rising cost of petroleum fuels and the $1.32 billion investment it has made during the eight years since control of the canal was turned over to the Republic of Panama as reasons for the fee increases. Rates for commercial shipping vessels have increased even more than fees for yachts.

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