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Clock ticks closer to midnight for overwhelmed California ports

The flood of import containers into Southern California continues unabated — an all-time high 81 container ships were stuck offshore of Los Angeles and Long Beach on Tuesday. Waiting time at anchorage for Los Angeles is surging and is now more than double wait times in early September.

The ports are scheduled to start charging a highly controversial excess dwell-time fee on Monday, a plan that some members of the National Shippers Advisory Council called “catastrophic,” “crazy” and “out of left field.”

With just five days left until the fee is set to begin, there are still over 51,000 containers on the terminals that are past the plan’s dwell-time limits.

If the fee plan is not delayed or modified, the aggregate cost to carriers — which would largely be passed on to importers — would start next Monday in the millions per day and escalate to tens of millions per day later in the week.

There is ongoing speculation that the ports will back off and announce a reprieve, given declines in the number of excess-dwell containers in recent weeks and the enormous costs that would be passed along to U.S. importers.

Asked about the level of fees that are set to start next week, a spokesperson for the Port of Los Angeles told American Shipper: “The Harbor Commission granted the executive director discretion regarding the program. More details and information will be coming on or before the 15th.”

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