California ports delay planned fines for shipping containers amid 'improvement' in backlog

Officials said the ports have experienced “a decline of 26% combined in aging cargo” since the fee was first unveiled on Oct. 25

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have delayed a plan to impose fees on backlogged shipping containers that was set to take effect on Monday, citing progress clearing traffic amid an ongoing supply chain crunch.

"There’s been significant improvement in clearing import containers from our docks in recent weeks," Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. "I’m grateful to the many nodes of the supply chain, from shipping lines, marine terminals, trucks and cargo owners, for their increased collaborative efforts."

Officials said the ports have experienced "a decline of 26% combined in aging cargo" since the fee was first unveiled on Oct. 25. The ports planned to charge ocean carriers $100 per container, with fines on containers transported by truck kicking in after remaining on site for nine days and for containers transported by rail after six days.


Aerial view of containers waiting at Port of Long Beach to be loaded onto trains and trucks on October 16, 2021 in Long Beach, California. (Getty Images)

Seroka added the ports "will continue to closely monitor the data as we approach November 22." Officials say any fees collected through the fines would be reinvested in efforts to "enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity and address congestion impacts."

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were a key element of President Biden’s plan to address the supply chain crisis. A labor shortage has contributed to a logjam at major ports that has resulted in shipping delays and shortages of key components.

In this Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, photo shipping containers are stacked up at Maersk APM Terminals Pacific at the Port of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes) (AP Newsroom)

In October, Biden said officials at the two ports agreed to shift to 24/7 operations to help relieve the supply chain bottlenecks.

"We’re encouraged by the progress our supply chain partners have made in helping our terminals shed long-dwelling import containers. Clearly, everyone is working together to speed the movement of cargo and reduce the backlog of ships off the coast as quickly as possible," said Port of Long Beach Executive Director Mario Cordero. "Postponing consideration of the fee provides more time, while keeping the focus on the results we need."


FILE PHOTO: Shipping containers are unloaded from ships at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex in Los Angeles, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo / Reuters)

The Port of Los Angeles noted the plan for potential fines was developed in coordination "with the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, U.S. Department of Transportation, Port of Long Beach and multiple supply chain stakeholders."