The Panama Canal will no longer be an inexpensive way totransport a yacht between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans if an expected increase in the toll takes effect this spring.
Instead of the relatively cheap $650 transit fee ($250 plus a $400 “measurement fee”) required until now, the new fee will be $1,500 after May 1, according to officials with the Panama Canal Commission. The fare increase, which has outraged the world yachting community since it was first announced in January, is being described as necessary by the Commission to balance rising maintenance and operation costs. Panama is set to assume control of the canal on January 1, 2000.
Another issue that complicates the battle between yacht owners and the Commission is the loss of great quantities of fresh water that occurs every time yachts pass through the canal. While large ships displace most of the water in a lock, a raft of yachts displaces so little that fresh water from Lake Gatún, the canal’s largest supply of fresh water, is lost in great quantities, as much as several million gallons per lock.
A final hearing was scheduled for March 31 at the Miraflores Locks Visitors’ Center.