Proposed fines reducing logjam at LA ports


LOS ANGELES (NewsNation Now) — Shipping containers are moving at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., in an effort to reduce a cargo jam that has led to supply shortages and higher prices for consumers. But the number of ships waiting offshore to offload more containers remains at a record high of about 90.

The backups at the ports — which handle 40% of the country’s container imports — have eased up a bit in recent weeks, due to new fines that were set to begin Monday to clear the backlog.

“There has been movement,” said Matt Schrap, CEO of Harbor Trucking Association. “The importers have been moving things off of docks at a much quicker pace. We’re seeing stuff that’s showing up here now and getting out pretty quickly.”

Under the new deadline starting Nov. 22, ports will charge carriers $100 per day for every container left sitting for more than six days if intended to move by rail. Those leaving by truck will have nine days before fees begin stacking up, according to officials.

Truckers are blaming the inefficient and restrictive appointment system that prevents the return of empty containers back into the terminal.

“It’s not so much about the imports as much as it is about these empty containers from our members’ perspective, especially,” Schrap said. “We’re sitting on these containers, they’re sitting on top of chassis, taking up space in our yards.”

For importers, container fines on top of much higher shipping costs will likely mean higher consumer prices. But the threat of fines has already triggered a 26% decline in aging cargo on the docks.

“There is a tremendous effort underway to make sure that during these holiday times coming up here, folks can expect to get their presents under the tree or where have you,” Schrap said. “I mean, if not, invest in gift cards.”

Before the pandemic, shipping containers usually moved out within two to four days. Port officials will continue to monitor movement to see if things keep improving ahead of the new deadline of Nov. 22.

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