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Carriers must move 60K containers out of LA/LB by Halloween

Daily surcharge fines begin Monday, forcing carriers to scramble

The containers are stacked up at the ports of LA and Long Beach. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Halloween is going to be an extra scary day for the logistics world. A total of 60,000 containers have been marked as beyond the dwell time and need to be moved out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by the carriers or the penalties will start racking up. A total of 33,000 containers need to be rolled out of the Port of Los Angeles and 27,000 loaded containers for the Port of Long Beach — a whopping $2,633,940,000 value in trade.

Carriers were put on notice this week when the ports announced that, starting next Monday, a daily surcharge of $100 per container will be levied. Did this light a fire and a surge of containers being moved? No. 

The pace of trade moving out of the ports could be characterized as more of a pregnant pause than a surge. Live webcams of the Port of Los Angeles terminals show more images of empty lanes than robust activity.

Turn times at both terminals tracked by the Harbor Trucking Association and GeoStamp also paint the snail pace of trade both before and after the announcement. 

“We are having an emergency harbor meeting Friday morning to vote on this,” explained Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka. “I need to see progress on the movement of loaded containers. We need to show America we are doing whatever we can to get trade moving.”

Noel Hacegaba, COO of the Port of Long Beach, emphasized this container push would be significant in alleviating the congestion plaguing productivity.  

“This is roughly 40% of all containers sitting on the terminals today,” he said. “Pulling all of these containers by Sunday will take an unprecedented coordinated effort but it must be done.”

RELATED: Ocean carriers will pass on fines for lingering containers to importers

Importers have told American Shipper they are afraid they will be on the hook for the fees. Some have already received letters notifying them of the additional charges.

“The carriers have always passed on fees and surcharges,” said one importer who asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation. “Why would the Biden administration, which is behind this penalty, think the carriers would not pass it over? The Federal Maritime Commission is already looking into the excessive demurrage costs we are paying! Carriers are making record profits.”

Maersk sent a letter to customers on Wednesday detailing the penalties.

When asked if the penalties would be passed over to customers, Maersk responded it was a work in progress since it has clients that have clauses in their contracts that stipulate no new additional charges.

“This penalty was not intended to be a passed-on cost,” explained Mario Cordero, Port of Long Beach executive director, at a port update press conference. 

Hacegaba added, “We are using every tool at our disposal to move containers.”

The National Retail Federation and the American Apparel and Footwear Association tell American Shipper if these charges are passed on, it will only add to the mounting inflationary logistic charges importers have been paying.

Hacegaba stressed, “We need the entire supply chain to step up.”


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Lori Ann LaRocco

Lori Ann LaRocco is senior editor of guests for CNBC business news. She coordinates high profile interviews and special multi-million dollar on-location productions for all shows on the network. Her specialty is in politics, working with titans of industry. LaRocco is the author of: “Trade War: Containers Don’t Lie, Navigating the Bluster” (Marine Money Inc., 2019) “Dynasties of the Sea: The Untold Stories of the Postwar Shipping Pioneers” (Marine Money Inc., 2018), “Opportunity Knocking” (Agate Publishing, 2014), “Dynasties of the Sea: The Ships and Entrepreneurs Who Ushered in the Era of Free Trade” (Marine Money, 2012), and “Thriving in the New Economy: Lessons from Today’s Top Business Minds” (Wiley, 2010).