In June 2019, the ACP announced a proposal to significantly increase the cost of a Canal transit in a small vessel from January 2020 (Page 22 of this document). Basically a yacht less than 65 feet long will now pay $1600, which is a 100% increase from the rate through 2019.
We have often heard yacht skippers complain about the cost, but surely they must understand that it is hardly cost effective for the ACP to send yachts through a system designed for large ships.
The first obvious point is that a large ship pays several hundred thousand dollars to go through the Canal. A yacht paying $800 does not even cover the cost of the Canal Advisor for the two days it usually takes, much less the four employees who handle the lines on the shoreside, and everyone else involved in the logistics. One estimate from a Canal Advisor was that there are about 40 ACP people involved in one yacht transit.
We were once on a transit with a yacht rally, so there were ten yachts in four rafts in each chamber, with no big ship. There were four sets of shoreside linehandlers and ten Canal Advisors, so 26 employees immediately involved, plus all the lock personnel and behind-the-scenes operations. The ACP would get $8,000 compared to a likely $150,000 or anywhere up to three times that for a large ship.
Whether the locks take a large ship or some yachts, the same 52 million gallons of water are lost from Gatun Lake which is already suffering the effects of climate change. At the time of the document release, the sixth draft restriction of 2019 was looming, because the rainfall in Panama was at a historic low.
Taking a yacht through the Panama Canal is a fantastic adventure, one that has always been allowed “in the spirit of the Canal” as an Advisor once told us. Of course a 100% fee increase is hard to swallow, but keep in mind the true cost of the process, and enjoy the experience for all that it is really worth!