The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have announced that they will delay until Nov. 22 consideration of a fee on import cargo containers that spend too much time on their docks.

As announced by the two ports in late October, the fee will be assessed on ocean carriers for import containers that stay on marine terminals for (1) six days or more for containers moving by rail or (2) nine days or more for containers scheduled to move by truck. The surcharge will be $100 per container, increasing in $100 increments per container per day. The ports have said revenues from these fees will be reinvested for programs designed to enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity, and address congestion impacts.

A Nov. 15 joint press release said that since the fee was announced the two ports have seen a 26 percent combined reduction in the number of delinquent containers and that “this encouraging momentum supports a delay in implementation of the fee.” However, an American Shipper article notes that “the numbers have actually gotten worse” in recent days and that the number of ships waiting to offload at the two ports recently hit yet another record. This could increase the prospects that the fee will ultimately be imposed, which the article said could yield aggregate costs exceeding $100 million per day within a week.

The Biden administration has expressed support for the fees despite the fact that they could violate federal rules issued in May 2020 designed to resolve longstanding complaints about just these types of charges. The Federal Maritime Commission is currently auditing nine top ocean carriers for compliance with this rule and has warned it “will take appropriate action” if prohibited activities are uncovered.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg is continuing a campaign to advocate with federal regulators and lawmakers on solutions to the supply chain crisis. For more information on this campaign and how to participate, please contact Ned Steiner at (202) 730-4970 or via email.

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