Port of LA says container fines working to improve congestion

The imposition of fines on carriers who did not pick up containers sufficiently quickly had been a last resort, but had succeeded in helping to get containers moving, according to Gene Seroka, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, in an interview on Tuesday November 2nd.

The recently introduced policy for Long Beach and the adjacent POLA called for arriving containers scheduled to be moved by truck to leave the ports within nine days and containers set to move by rail within six days. Fees of $100 a day per container are being applied for containers that dwell at the terminals beyond those limits.

The new rule went into effect on November 1st, although no penalties would be assessed before November 15th and the ports would consider not charging the fee if by that date there had been tangible progress in clearing the backlog. “If progress is being made clearing our docks, I have the discretion to delay the start of fees beyond November 15th,” said Seroka.

“Our goal is to see significant improvement on our docks so that we don’t need to administer any fees.” If fees do have to be collected, the ports have said they would invest the money raised in programmes “designed to enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity, and address congestion impacts.”

The ports have said that at the moment about 40% of the import containers at their terminals were idling for at least nine days. This compared with an average of just under four days pre-pandemic for local deliveries, and two days for containers awaiting a train journey.

Seroka also said that, of the 73 vessels waiting in San Pedro bay to unload containers, 50 of them represented many of the 10 newcomers to the trade this year, plus at least a half a dozen retailers that had decided to charter ships to bring them in. “Many of these folks did not have reservations at the Ports of Long Beach or Los Angeles, even after they loaded cargo and the vessel began its journey across the Pacific. We try to hustle these folks in wherever we have a gap in time, which is few and far between, to get those vessels worked as well,” Seroka said.