Charges at POLA & Long Beach for excessive container dwell times

The twin Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in southern California are to begin charging ocean carriers for excessive container dwell times at terminals. A daily fee will be imposed on carriers for import containers that hang around in marine terminals.

The planned charges are part of a concentrated effort by the ports, developed in coordination with the Biden Administration, to speed up the movement of cargo, particularly cargo in containers, amid record volumes since H2 2020, further hampered by a shortage of staff and tougher restrictions because of Covid-19.

POLA and Long beach will now charge ocean carriers a fee, starting at $100 per container per day.

In the case of containers scheduled to move by road, ocean carriers will be charged for every container deemed to have been “dwelling” nine days or more. For containers moving by rail, carriers will be charged if the container has dwelled for three days or more.

Dwell times typically refer to the period between when the container is unloaded from a ship and the time when it is picked up.

The charges will start on November 1st. Ocean carriers with cargo falling in those categories will be charged $100 per container per day, which will increase by $100 increments each day beyond the allotted times, the ports said.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said that “approximately 40% of the containers on our terminals today fall into the two categories. If we can clear this idling cargo, we’ll have much more space on our terminals to accept empties, handle exports, and improve fluidity for the wide range of cargo owners who utilize our ports.”

Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero said that “with the escalating backlog of ships off the coast, we must take immediate action to prompt the rapid removal of containers from our marine terminals”, adding that “the terminals are running out of space, and this will make room for the containers sitting on those ships at anchor.”

Containers for local delivery historically had sat on container terminals for an average of no more than three to four days, while containers destined for the railway network dwelled for less than two days. Since mid-2020 those periods have increased significantly. That has made it difficult to clear cargo off the terminals, which in turn has made it slower to bring in ships at anchor.

Fees collected from the dwelling cargo charges were expected to be re-invested by the two ports for programmes designed to enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity, and address congestion impacts throughout the San Pedro Bay, the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach said.

The policy was developed in coordination with the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, US Department of Transportation and multiple supply chain stakeholders.

An update from Marine Exchange of Southern California late on Friday said that numbers were slightly down from six records set on Thursday October 21st.

As of noon on Friday: there were 163 total vessels of all types were in port, which includes all vessels at a berth/dock, plus those at anchor, plus those in a holding area within 40 miles of the ports.

Of the 163 in total, 105 were at anchor, four fewer than on Thursday. Of these, 54 were physically anchored to the bottom, while 51 were in holding areas within 40 miles of ports. The other 58 were at a berth/dock discharging and/or loading cargo.

Of the 163 vessels, 106 were container ships, down two from Thursday.

Of the 106 container ships, 77 were container ships were “waiting” (35 physically anchored to the bottom plus 42 in holding areas within 40 miles of the ports) and 29 were at a berth/dock discharging and/or loading cargo.

Tankers and cruise ships were arriving and departing the ports per their schedules without delay. Some of the cruise ships have passengers, while others were still caretaker crews only.

Meanwhile, high winds were expected at Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach early this week at the anchorages and holding areas. The bomb cyclone that had been hitting the Pacific Northwest since Sunday was heading south. According to the US National Weather Service, the system’s minimum central pressure dropped to 942.5 mb on Sunday, the lowest pressure ever recorded off the Pacific Northwest.

The US Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach encouraged those commercial ships that were drifting in holding areas to “proceed under power” prior to the arrival of a wind event forecasted for Monday and Tuesday.

In its Friday update it asked ships at anchor and in holding areas to voluntarily head out to sea before the wind event started so they could space themselves out even more for safety of each vessel. The USCG said that vessels doing so would retain their space in the anchorages and queue; they would not be charged an extra VTS fee for the departure and return. Vessels would be allowed to return on their own schedule following the wind event.

“In order to ensure the safe navigation of all vessels, the Captain of the Port encourages all commercial vessels greater than 1,600 gt that are underway, not making way, to proceed under power prior to the forecasted weather,” the safety bulletin reads. The “underway, not making way” would include ships drifting in designated holding areas.