Shipping bodies have urged a lengthy delay to proposed new charges to be imposed on ships using the Panama Canal.

A new toll structure to be introduced by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP) on 1 January 2020 should be delayed to avoid "a negative impact on shipowners and ship operators", said shipowners representatives.

The hope is to avoid the introduction of additional charges on the same day that IMO 2020 emissions legislation comes into force.

The proposal is outlined in a letter to the ACP signed by the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), the Asian Shipowners Association (ASA) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA).

Charges for containerships and general cargo ships will remain unchanged.

But significant increases of between five to 15% will be applied to operators of bulkers, tankers, chemical tankers, LPG vessels, pure car carriers, ro-ro’s and cruise ships.

The shipping lobby argues that could significantly undermine future trade growth.

Ship operators now have less than six months to prepare for the additional costs of new toll charters.

But a longer 12-month notice period is needed to enable ship operators to prepare for the future toll changes, which are due to come into effect on the same day as the IMO 2020 sulphur-cap regulation.

“The global shipping industry is therefore very concerned that the implementation of new toll charges on 1 January 2020 will have a negative impact not only on shipowners and operators, but also on world trade,” the lobby said.

It added that higher insurance premiums and economic uncertainty is “expected to continue to have a negative impact on the global shipping industry in 2020”.

“For these reasons, ICS, ASA and ECSA request that the ACP at the very least postpone the timing for implementation of the proposed new toll increase by at least six months,” the groups said.