Port of Los Angeles announces fee on lingering empty containers amid backlog

SAN PEDRO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 30: A tugboat is docked near a container ship at the Port of Los Angeles on November 30, 2021 in San Pedro, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

The Port of Los Angeles announced Thursday that it would implement a fee on ocean carriers with empty containers that linger for at least nine days on marine terminals.

The fee needs to be approved by the Los Angeles Harbor Commission and would take effect on Jan. 30.

Similar to a fee on lingering import containers that was implemented at the port but has not taken effect due to progress reducing import containers, the new policy's fines would begin at $100 per container, increasing by $100 per container each day until the container leaves the terminal.

"While we have seen significant success reducing import containers on our docks the past two months, too many empty containers are currently sitting on marine terminals," said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. "Just like the import dwell fee, the objective with this empty container program is not to collect fees but to free up valuable space on our docks, clearing the way for more ships and improving fluidity."

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The Los Angeles Harbor Commission will vote on the new policy on Jan. 13.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced on Oct. 25 a fee on lingering import containers. Implementation was delayed several times, most recently on Monday, due to progress in reducing the number of port containers at the terminal. On Monday, the ports reported a 41% combined decline in aging cargo on the docks.

"As expected, progress has eased due to year-end holidays," the Port of L.A. said in a statement Monday.

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Over the next week, port officials will monitor and reassess the import container fee's implementation.

The fees are just some of several efforts aimed at speeding the processing of cargo at the San Pedro Port Complex to eliminate a backlog of ships trying to deliver merchandise. Port of Los Angeles officials said when the first policy was announced that about 40% of import containers were idling at terminals for at least nine days.

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