California ‘container dwell fee’ implementation delayed again

Source: Lloyd’s Loading List; The Loadstar; Splash247; CNBC
Date: 25th November 2021

The key US west coast container ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have decided on a further delay to the implementation of their planned ‘container dwell fee’ until at least next week following continued progress moving import boxes out of their congested container terminals.

Following meetings with US Port Envoy and industry stakeholders, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles announced on Monday that “with continued progress moving containers off marine terminals, the fee will not be considered before 29 November”.

Since the fee was announced on 25 October, the two ports said they “have seen a decline of 33% combined in aging cargo on the docks. The executive directors of both ports are satisfied with the progress thus far and will reassess fee implementation after another week of monitoring data.”

Under the temporary policy approved on 29 October by the Harbour Commissions of both ports, ocean carriers can be charged for each import container that falls into one of two categories: In the case of containers scheduled to move by truck, ocean carriers could be charged for every container dwelling nine days or more. For containers moving by rail, ocean carriers could be charged if a container has dwelled for six days or more.

The ports plan to charge ocean carriers in these two categories $100 per container, increasing in $100 increments per container per day until the container leaves the terminal.

Before the pandemic-induced import surge began in mid-2020, on average, containers for local delivery remained on container terminals under four days, while containers destined for trains dwelled less than two days, the ports said.

Any fees collected from dwelling cargo “will be reinvested for programmes designed to enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity and address congestion impacts”. The policy was developed in coordination with the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, US Department of Transportation and multiple supply chain stakeholders.

The new fees were initially intended to be implemented from 15 November, but that implementation was initially delayed by a week, until 22 November after reporting that, since the announcement of the fines, the twin ports had seen a decline of 26% combined in long-staying cargo on the docks over the previous three weeks.

Port of Los Angeles executive director said at the time of that initial delay: “There’s been significant improvement in clearing import containers from our docks in recent weeks. I’m grateful to the many nodes of the supply chain, from shipping lines, marine terminals, trucks and cargo owners, for their increased collaborative efforts.”

Port of Long Beach executive director said: “We’re encouraged by the progress our supply chain partners have made in helping our terminals shed long-dwelling import containers. Clearly, everyone is working together to speed the movement of cargo and reduce the backlog of ships off the coast as quickly as possible.

“Postponing consideration of the fee provides more time, while keeping the focus on the results we need.”

The measures, developed in coordination with the US government, are part of the efforts by the world’s largest import country to alleviate the logistics bottleneck that has been threatening its supply chain stability. The move, however, has sparked a heated debate regarding which parties should pay to speed up the US container flows, with the National Industrial Transportation League arguing that carriers should not be allowed to pass on the expenses to importers.

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