Port Houston recently approved the introduction of long-distance container fees with the goal of clearing backlogs from imports sitting at its two sea terminals.
Beginning December 1, the port will charge a sustained import dwell fee of US$45 per day for loaded containers beyond the free period (approximately five to seven days). This fee is charged in addition to the mooring fees.
The fees are intended to help make room for dock workers to better service ships and reduce cargo delays, officials said.
“Recently we have had peak values of 10 days residence time [for loaded import containers]Chief Port Operations Officer Jeff Davis said during the Oct. 27 Port Authority Commission meeting. “It wasn’t sustainable, but we’ve had times where we’ve had loaded containers in our yard for 10 days. Our capacity in the first quarter of this year we were [averaging] seven days’ stay, that’s twice our historical average.”
Davis said when there are too many loaded import containers lying around, it impacts shipyards, roads and the port’s ability to serve ships.
“We’re getting new crates from ships all the time, and if we linger it slows things down,” he said. “We’re getting crowded terminals where the boxes aren’t moving, and that’s not good for us.”
Port Houston is also considering raising fees to more than $45 for even longer-aging cargo lying on its docks.
The “Excessive Dwelling Fee on Imports” would be levied on longer-dwelling containers, at the discretion of Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther. It would be implemented after 30 days of public notice and would remain in effect for at least 60 days.
The inflated sojourn taxes on imports would cost $50 per unit per day for one to three days after the free time; $75 per unit per day for four to seven days thereafter; $100 per unit per day for eight to 13 days thereafter; and $150 per unit per day for 14 or more days thereafter.
Both fees would be levied at the port’s Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals and require payment of the amounts before a container can be released from the facilities. The fees would be levied on shipping companies and privileged cargo owners.
Other seaports in the US, also dealing with loaded import containers clogging their yards for longer than usual, have also discussed charging fees.
Both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have proposed demurrage charges for containers staying in port for nine days or more, but have put the plans on hold for now. The Port of New York and New Jersey has also discussed charging carriers for empty containers stored at the port for extended periods.
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