The decision of Egypt's Suez Canal to raise its toll fees may cause the already struggling ship owners to re-route their vessels to the Cape of Good Hope, the International Chamber of Shipping (ISC) said on Monday.
The Suez Canal ship tolls are an important source of foreign currency for Egypt as they bring in around $5 billion annually at a time when the country is going through political and economic turmoil.
"Most international ship operators are trading in the worst shipping markets in living memory due to there being too many ships chasing too few cargoes," Peter Hinchliffe, secretary general of the chamber, said.
"This is not the time for the SCA to be announcing increases, which for some trades seem very dramatic indeed, and which many ship owners will find impossible to pass on to their customers," he added.
No immediate commentary could be obtained from the Suez Canal officials.
The Suez Canal which is 192 kilometres long provides the fastest sea lane between Asia and Europe and saves around 15 days at sea on average.
Egypt "is in desperate need for money," Middle East analyst of AKE Security Alan Fraser has said.
Suez Canal will raise the fees by two to five percent as of the coming May, the canal's authority said last week.