Stacked containers are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Almost 37,000 Import Containers Avoid Fines as San Pedro Ports Delay Dwell Fee Again

Mike Schuler
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December 13, 2021

The neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have postponed the new “container dwell fee” for a fifth week in a row, citing progress in removing aging import cargo from docks.

Implementation of the dwell fees is now on hold until at least December 20th as the ports continue to monitor cargo flow through terminals.

The latest update said the two ports have seen a decline of 47% in again cargo on docks since the fee was announced on October 25th.

Operations updates from Monday showed 16,822 containers at Los Angeles and 19,137 containers at Long Beach sitting 9 days and over. Another 487 rail-bound containers have been sitting 6 or more days at Long Beach, while Los Angeles figures showed a total 3,456 rail-bound containers with no aging information attached.

Under the proposed program, each container of those aging containers (36,447 total containers between the two ports) would have been charged a daily fee starting at $100 and increasing in $100 increments for each day remaining at the terminals. As proposed, the fee would be charged to the ocean carriers who carried the cargo and passed to the shipper.

The executive directors of both ports have been quick credit the proposed dwell fee program for helping to reduce the amount of aging cargo on docks despite the fact that not a single fine has been levied.

Yet not all KPIs seem to be headed in the right direction. As of Friday, numbers from the Southern Marine Exchange of California showed a near-record 95 containers backed up, including 28 either physically at anchor or loitering within 40 miles of the San Pedro Bay Port Complex and 67 outside the 150-mile safety and air emissions exclusion zone.

A storm last Thursday into Friday forced 18 ships to raise anchor and head to sea where they had “plenty of room to operate,” according to the Marine Exchange. As we have reported, the 150-mile exclusion zone, launched in mid-November, is designed to improve safety and air emissions in the immediate vicinity of the Southern California ports.

Correction: The number of aging containers that would have faced fines is 36,447. An earlier version of this story said almost 40,000 would have faced fines if the container dwell program was implemented today.

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