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routes; that the charges should not be high enough to burden commerce unduly or seriously to restrict the usefulness of the canal; and that the rates should be high enough to yield revenues that will, within a reasonable period of time, make the canal commercially self-supporting
The facts presented above regarding the effect which the canal will have upon the length and time of ocean voyages, and the facts concerning the relative costs of coal via the Panama Canal and the alternative routes that may be taken by traffic most sensitive to tolls, are, possibly, sufficient to show that the rates of toll, as fixed by the President, will not prevent the canal from competing with alternative routes, and will not unduly burden traffic or restrict the use of the canal. Whether the revenues derivable from the estimated volume of shipping served by the canal will enable the waterway to carry itself financially can be indicated by comparing the probable yearly revenues with the annual capital and current expenses.
The estimated revenues that might be secured from the Panama Canal, if all ships paid tolls, during 1915, 1920 and 1925 are classified in the following table with reference to the nationality of shipping employed in American and foreign commerce:
The Panama Canal
TABLE IX.-CLASSIFICATION OF ESTIMATED REVENUE OF THE
PANAMA CANAL AT A TOLL OF $1.20 PER NET TON
Coast-to-coast American shipping.. $ 1,200,000 $ 1,696,800 $ 2,400,000 American shipping carrying for
eign commerce of the United States.
864,000 1,092,000 1,380,000 Foreign shipping carrying com
merce of the United States and foreign countries.
10,536,000 13,224,000 16,620,000 Total..
$12,600,000 $16,012,800 $20,400,000
It is estimated that $20,750,000 will be required annually to make the canal commercially self-sustaining. This total is made up of $4,000,000 for operating and maintenance expenses, $1,500,000 for sanitation and Zone government, $250,000 for the annuity payable to Panama under the treaty of 1903, $11,250,000 to pay 3 per cent on the $375,000,000 invested in the canal, and $3,750,000 for an amortization fund of 1 per cent per annum upon the cost of the canal.
During the first year or two of the canal's operation the annual net tonnage of the shipping passing through the canal will presumably amount to about 10,500,000 tons.*
Of this amount about 1,000,000 net tons will consist of shipping engaged in the coastwise trade of the United States. By the end of the first decade, that is, in 1925, the total net tonnage of shipping passing through the canal annually will be about 17,000,000 tons, of which at least 2,000,000 tons will be contributed by the coastwise shipping.
* As stated in the footnote on page 219, the European war will inevitably make the initial tonnage of canal traffic less than it otherwise would have been.
It is thus possible that about $12,600,000 per annum will be secured from tolls during the first two or three years of the canal's operation, if all vessels, American and foreign, are required to pay the tolls fixed by the President in his Proclamation of November 13, 1912. If the Panama Canal Act of August 24, 1912, had not been amended by the act of June 15, 1914, and the coastwise shipping had been exempted from tolls, the initial receipts from the canal would have amounted to less than $10,500,000 per annum.
In all probability the rate of tolls will, by 1925, have been reduced to $1.00 per net ton upon merchant vessels. It will not be wise to charge higher tolls at Panama than are levied at Suez. The tolls at Suez are now $1.20 (6.25 francs) per net ton and they have been reduced four times since 1902. It is probable that the prophecy of de Lesseps will be realized and that the Suez tolls will, eventually, be brought down to 5 francs, about $1.00 per net ton. There will thus be a probable revenue of $17,000,000 per annum in 1925, obtainable from canal tolls, if all ships are required to pay the dues. The exemption of the coastwise ship
would have reduced the revenue in 1925 to about $15,000,000 a year, or to less than the estimated annual outlay for operation, Zone sanitation and government, the Panama annuity and the interest on the amount invested in the canal. The revenues would have yielded no surplus for betterment and nothing for the amortization of the $375,000,000 or more which the people of the United States will have paid for the canal.
These calculations indicate clearly that the United
States will need to collect tolls from the owners of the ships engaged in the American coastwise trade in order to secure revenues, within a reasonable time after the opening of the canal, large enough to meet the canal's current expenses and its capital charges.
VI. THE EXEMPTION OF THE OWNERS OF COASTWISE SHIPS FROM TOLLS WOULD HAVE BEEN AN
UNNECESSARY AND UNWISE SUBSIDY
The provision which exempted the owners of ships engaged in the American coastwise trade from the payment of Panama tolls was included in the Canal Administration Act of August 24, 1912, presumably, because it was thought that such a provision was needed in order to enable the canal to be of satisfactory service to the industries and trade of the United States, and because it was the desire of Congress to aid the American merchant marine. Would the rates paid by producers and shippers of most articles of commerce have been less because of exempting the coastwise steamship companies from Panama tolls; and did or do those companies need the subsidy that it was proposed to give them?
The exceptionally large producers and traders who ship goods in vessels which they own or charter would probably enjoy lower transportation charges beween the two seaboards of the United States, if the Government relieved them from the payment of Panama tolls; and in so far as the railroads compete with chartered vessels for lumber, coal, ore and similar traffic the canal tolls would be of advantage to the railroads. This advantage, however, would be more theoretical than real, for it is not probable that the railroads can compete with the carriers by water for bulk cargoes of lumber, coal, ore and similar products. The railroads will be obliged to allow that traffic to go by water and the charter rates on such shipments will not be affected by rail competition.
The effect which canal tolls upon coastwise shipping will have upon rail and water rates, and the adjustment of the charges of coastwise carriers and the railroads engaged in handling traffic between the two seaboards of the United States may be summarized as follows:
The rates on traffic handled by regular steamship lines between the two seaboards will be but slightly affected by canal tolls. Only such producers and traders as use vessels which they own or charter for the shipment of full cargoes would profit by the exemption of the coastwise shipping from tolls. Probably 99 out of every 100 shippers would pay the same rates whether there are tolls or not. Most of the intercoastal traffic will consist of general commodities and package freight handled by the established steamship lines. Bulk cargoes of lumber, coal, ore and heavy steel products will comprise a relatively small share of the total traffic. The rates charged by the several steamship lines will be the same. The charges will be regulated by agreements among the competing companies and will be fixed primarily with reference to the cost of the service to the carriers. The several steamship lines will maintain relatively stable schedules of charges which will ordinarily be adjusted with