PMSA asks Long Beach for relief from port charges
Efforts by a group that represents 67 shipping lines, terminal operators and other maritime interests to get the Southern California ports to provide relief to their container terminal tenants and shipping lines seem to be getting nowhere.
In a letter sent June 25 to Port of Long Beach Harbor Board President Nick Sramek, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association asked the port 'to enter into negotiations on an individual tenant-by-tenant basis as part of an effort to provide tenants and port customers with temporary relief.'
In the letter, PMSA said the shipping industry is facing 'unprecedented economic challenges,' a fact manifested in sustained throughput declines at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the country's biggest containerized cargo gateway.
But Sramek, in a July 10 reply to PMSA, said that port charges 'represent a relatively small fraction of the overall operating costs of shipping lines and marine terminal operators.' Citing the fact that Long Beach has already delayed a cargo fee originally scheduled to commence July 2009 and that it introduced programs earlier this year to provide incentives for new cargo to call at the port, Sramek suggested the shipping lines and terminal operators focus on their own operations to cut costs.
'While we will continue working with our customers to look at ways that reduce the impacts of our port charges on the industry, we challenge you to pursue those areas where real headway can be made to significantly reduce costs for your members,' Sramek wrote.
He said the port is suffering as well, with volume down 30 percent from the previous year and “revenues reflecting a similar downward trend.”
PMSA said it didn't send a similar letter to the neighboring Port of Los Angeles, but met with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigoso on the matter.
'We are an industry that is on the precipice of disaster — which may result in fundamental changes in the movement of cargo,' the PMSA letter said. 'We cannot ask, nor do we expect, individual ports to be able to solve this economic crisis. But we do expect ports to work with their tenants ' to provide creative business solutions that will assist in allowing all parties to get through this difficult period.'