OOCL Qingdao
OOCL Qingdao - one of GSL's fleet

Congestion at Southern Californian ports has not been affected by the failure to introduce the increased container dwell charge, with vessels offshore remaining stubbornly high and one carrier even adding a service.

The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have again postponed the implementation date of their contentious container dwell fee, amid doubts it will ever be charged.

Following meetings yesterday with US port envoy John Porcari and industry stakeholders, the San Pedro Bay ports announced that the $100 per container, per day fee for boxes remaining on terminals after nine days for truck movements, and six days for rail, would be deferred for a third time, and “not be considered before” 29 November.

“Since the fee was announced on 25 October, the twin ports have seen a decline of 33% combined in ageing cargo on the docks,” said a joint statement. “The executive directors of both ports are satisfied with the progress and will reassess fee implementation after another week of monitoring data.”

The original date for the rolling out of the storage fees, which the marine terminal will charge to their ocean carrier customers, who in turn have made no secret of their intention to recharge to their shipper customers, was 1 November, before last minute reprieves to 15 November, 22 November and now 29 November.

Jon Monroe, of Washington state-based Jon Monroe Consulting, said he was hearing on the ground that the architects of the scheme were having second thoughts on the practicality of the charge.

“I hear rumours that some of the individuals involved in this bright idea are starting to see the problems in the implementation of this new surcharge,” said Mr Monroe, and he suggested that the surcharge ‘can’ would be “kicked further down the road”, or might even “quietly disappear”.

And analyst Lars Jensen, CEO of Vespucci Maritime, argued that the emphasis on evacuating longer-stay containers had skewed the landside operations and come at a cost of more boxes on the terminals, not fewer.

“Looking at the data from Los Angeles and Long Beach it appears the decline in long-standing containers has come at the expense of an increase in boxes with a shorter dwell period,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of containerships anchored off the two west coast ports, drifting, or idling up to 150 miles away to await confirmation of available berth and labour, has stubbornly remained above 70, according to Marine Exchange data.

Moreover, according to the port of Los Angeles Signal data, the average wait time has increased to over 18 days, with extra loaders and ad-hoc charters being obliged to hold off for much longer.

In the worst-case example currently, containers on the 1,618 teu Bal Peace laden with consumer goods for the holiday season have been sitting outside Los Angeles for 55 days and counting, having arrived from China on 4 October, frustratingly so close to their retailer shelve destinations.

Despite the diminishing appetite of carriers to deploy extra loaders, and the rude shock for entrepreneurial charters having found the last leg of the voyage to be the most costly, OOCL appears  more optimistic about its ability to turn its ships around at its Long Beach facility.

The carrier said that, effective from the sailing from this week, it would launch its new Pacific China South Express (PCSX) service “to satisfy customers’ needs for fast and reliable shipping”.

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