L.A./Long Beach terminals push for daytime gate user fee
Thirteen marine terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have proposed a user fee for containers that move through their gates during day-time hours, to relieve container-related traffic.
The West Coast Marine Terminals Operators Discussion Agreement filed an action agreement with the Federal Maritime Commission June 3 to use its antitrust immunity to create a tariff for a daytime gate fee. The proposed agreement also calls for the development of a special purpose entity to administer and collect the fee from shippers. The fee amount has yet to be determined.
“We now feel we’re making significant headway to move trucks off peak hours to non-peak hours,” said Doug Tilden, president of Maritime Terminals Corp., and a member of the discussion agreement, at a meeting of the Agriculture Ocean Transportation Coalition in San Francisco Friday.
For years, Los Angeles and Long Beach port terminals have operated so-called “hoot gates” from 3 a.m. to 8 a.m. to handle large influxes of containers, but the problem is that it still puts many trucks in the weekday rush hour, starting at 6 a.m.
Shippers and terminals in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have tried to head off a California state legislature effort to impose new rules for daytime container traffic to cut down on rush-hour congestion and pollution.
Robin Lanier, director of the Waterfront Coalition, described the option between a private and public sector daytime gate fee like “negotiating with a gun to your head,” but believes that the terminal operators’ proposal is the best option for shippers in the Los Angeles and Long Beach areas.
The Waterfront Coalition spent the past three years promoting nighttime gates to move containers more efficiently in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The coalition ran into resistance, however, from dock labor and terminal operators who said the voluntary shipper volumes of the coalition were not enough to justify the expense to operate nighttime gates.
The coalition told the discussion agreement members that any user fee should sunset once container volumes for the nighttime gates surpass 40 percent of the total container volume moving through the two southern California ports. The terminals believe this request is reasonable, but make no promises, Tilden said.
The proposed fee would not impact containers moving in and out of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach by rail. Lanier urged shippers, large and small, to encourage their freight forwarders and non-vessel-operating common carriers to use rail transport to avoid the fee.
Tilden said the discussion agreement requested “expedited” FMC approval of the user fee so that it would be in place before the end of the current California assembly session. The discussion agreement hopes to get the fee in place by the third quarter of this year.
California assemblyman Alan Lowenthal, chairman of the California Select Committee on California Ports, who introduced three interrelated bills to tackle container-related road congestion, warned that time was running out for the industry to correct the problem. “We can’t wait any longer,” he told the AgOTC.
Container traffic concerns in other U.S. ports may force other marine terminal groups to do the same. Tilden said it’s highly likely that this type of action “will eventually migrate to other areas, such as other West Coast ports.”