The International Chamber of Shipping condemned planned Suez Canal toll hikes and warned cash-strapped shipowners might sail their vessels via the route around the Cape of Good Hope.
The Suez Canal Authority plans to increase tolls on May 1 by between 3 and 5 percent according to ship type and tonnage.
“Most international ship operators are trading in the worst shipping markets in living memory,” said Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general of the ICS.
“This is not the time for the SCA to be announcing increases that for some trades seem very dramatic indeed, and that many shipowners will find impossible to pass on to their customers.”
The planned toll hikes follow across-the-board increases of 3 percent, which were implemented in March 2012 despite industry protests.
The ICS said it recognizes the Suez Canal Authority is under increased pressure to maintain what is now Egypt’s main source of foreign revenue following the impact of recent political events on the nation’s tourism sector and its broader economy.
But the route via the Cape of Good Hope is becoming relatively less expensive as many ships resort to slow-steaming to cut costs and carbon dioxide emissions, London-based ICS noted.
Moreover, the entrance to the Suez Canal via the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden is already unattractive because of the continuing threat of Somali piracy, which is being compounded by instability in the Yemen.
“Recent events in Egypt, including riots in Ismailia and Port Said, are generating concerns about the security of the canal itself,” the ICS said.
Hinchliffe said the ICS is disappointed that it was not consulted over the planned increases.