LOS ANGELES — Commissioners for the Los Angeles Harbor voted unanimously Friday to charge ship operators a dwell fee for spending excessive time at the Port of LA. The penalties are being imposed to improve cargo movement amid an ongoing import surge. 

Effective Nov. 1, the plan allows the Port of LA to charge ocean carriers $100 for each import container that is scheduled to move by truck but is not moved for nine or more days or is scheduled to move by rail and is not moved for six or more days. The fee increases to $100 per container per day until it leaves the terminal.

“Our objective with this program is not to generate revenue,” said LA Harbor Commission President Jaime Lee. “Instead, we need our supply chain partners to make operational changes that will reduce dwell times, clear our terminals and make room for the ships waiting to enter our port.”

Penalties will begin to be assessed Nov. 15 under the 90-day LA Harbor Commission program that was developed in coordination with the Biden-Harris Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Port of Long Beach and other entities involved with the supply chain. Collected fees will be invested in programs designed to enhance the port’s efficiency, speed up cargo and lessen the impacts of congestion.

“Starting Monday, we will be taking daily data snapshots of how long import containers sit on our container terminals,” said Port of LA Executive Director Gene Seroka. “If progress is being made clearing our docks, I have the discretion to delay the start of fees beyond Nov. 15. Our goal is to see significant improvement on our docks so that we don’t need to administer any fees.”  

About 40% of the containers imported through the port’s terminals are idling at least nine days, port officials said. Prior to the import surge fueled by the pandemic, containers scheduled to be moved by truck idled at the port’s terminals four days or less, and containers scheduled for trains dwelled less than two days. 

In early October, the Port of LA reported cargo ships were idling on the water for 12 days before being unloaded, while the average time containers idled at rail yards was 4.4 days. 

More than 125,000 companies import cargo through the Port of LA, which has experienced an unprecedented cargo surge for the past year leading to record volumes of ships and containers. Through the end of the year, the Port of LA anticipates cargo volumes will remain high and close out the calendar year 17% higher than at the end of 2020.