Photo courtesy Port Houston

Port Houston to Begin Charging for Long-Dwelling Import Containers

Mike Schuler
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November 3, 2022

Port Houston has announced plans to start charging cargo owners with a dwell fee for import containers lingering at marine terminals beyond a free period to encourage cargo movement.

The new fee, known as the “Sustained Import Dwell Fee”, comes as Port Houston’s container terminals have experienced an influx of cargo as inbound volumes have shifted away from the West Coast to East and Gulf Coast ports. September marked the second-biggest month ever for containers at Port Houston, following only August 2022. Similar to other ports, this cargo growth has led to congestion.

The fee, to be implemented beginning on December 1, 2022, will be assessed directly to the Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs) for import containers lingering for eight days or more. The fee will be $45 per unit per day beyond the free period. Containers will not be released until all terminal fees are paid.

The fee is in addition to the demurrage charges for loaded import containers.

The new measure comes after Port Houston evaluated several options to improve cargo movement, including reviewing practices implemented by other U.S. ports to improve cargo fluidity. Executive Director Roger Guenther said Port Houston has yet to experience any softening in import loads, and emphasized that the fee was in the best interests and for the benefit of all supply chain stakeholders to minimize container dwell time in order to maintain efficient operations.

Port Houston is also considering increasing the fee, at the discretion of the Executive Director, to further encourage container movement. This will take effect following thirty days public notice and remain in effect for at least sixty days. The “Excessive Import Dwell Fee” will charge $50 per unit per day for 1-3 days after free time, $75 per unit per day for 4-7 after, $100 per unit per day for 8-13 days after, and $150 per unit per day for 14 or more days after free time.

The Sustained Import Dwell Fees will not continue to accrue during the period that the Excessive Import Dwell Fee is in effect.

The Southern California ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have considered a similar long-dwelling container fee, however its implementation has been postponed for more than a year amid improvements in congestion.

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