The cargo dwell fees the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have threatened for week were postponed for a third time Monday, Nov. 22, with the twin seaports reporting continued cooperation from ocean carriers in clearing out containers that have been sitting on terminal docks too long.
The country’s two busiest ports, which are at the heart of an ongoing supply chain crisis, made the decision after consulting with U.S. Port Envoy John Porcari and industry stakeholders. The need for the fees will be assessed again on Monday, Nov. 29, and will depend on whether cargo is still being moved out at a sufficient pace, port officials said.
“At this point, we’ve measured the results of international carriers coming to the table,” said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero at Monday’s harbor commission meeting. “At this point, there is no contemplation of applying that fee earlier than Nov. 29 and at that time we will have further discussions.”
Since the fee was announced on Oct. 25, the two ports have seen a combined 33% decline in aging cargo taking up space on the docks, which has prevented ships from being unloaded more quickly.
The temporary policy, which the LA and Long Beach harbor commissions approved Oct. 29, allows the ports to charge ocean carriers for each import container that falls into one of two categories: boxes moving by truck would be charged $100 for every container sitting nine days or more; by rail, the charge would be $100 per container left at least six days. Those fees add $100 per box each day to the penalty.
Sweeper ships were also scheduled to begin arriving to carry out the excess empties, Cordero said, which make up about 40% of the containers on port docks.
Those sweeper ships will not have to wait outside the harbor when they arrive, Cordero said, but will be brought in to load immediately.
“We don’t want to make it look like the crisis is over here,” Cordero said, “but I think after the first of the year, we’ll see some mitigating factors and fewer ships.”
Cordero’s deputy executive director, Noel Hacegaba, agreed.
“When you look at the ships at anchor this morning, they’re down to 62,” Hacegaba said. “By any measure, things seem to be moving in the right direction.”
Also at Monday’s Long Beach board meeting, commissioners approved setting aside about 45 acres at two terminals — 30 acres at SSA Terminals at Pier A and 14.5 acres at Total Terminals International on Pier S Avenue — as staging areas for empty and loaded containers.
The Port of Los Angeles is also searching out and setting aside property to handle more containers, since the overflow has produced problems in the neighboring community of Wilmington.
On Oct. 29, L.A. port commissioners approved a $2.5 million contract to develop a 10-acre parcel within the former LAXT facility at Berths 226-236 for temporary storage of chassis and containers.
The goal for both ports, as with the fee, is to make room on the docks under short-term arrangements. Keeping more containers within port properties also will keep them from cluttering up nearby communities, Hacegaba said.
“The whole issue is one of constraint,” Cordero said. “It’s the inability to have enough land to stage containers.”