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Port Houston recently approved enacting fees on long-dwelling containers, aiming to clear backlogs of imports sitting at its two marine terminals. 

Starting Dec. 1, the port will apply a $45 per day “sustained import dwell fee” for loaded containers beyond the free period (about five to seven days). This fee comes in addition to demurrage charges.

The fees are intended to help clear space so port workers can better service vessels and reduce cargo delays, officials said. 

“We have had recent peaks of 10 days of dwell [for loaded import containers],” Chief Port Operations Officer Jeff Davis said during the Oct. 27 port authority commission meeting. “It wasn’t sustained, but we had times where we had loaded containers sitting in our yard for 10 days. Our capacity in the first quarter this year, we were [averaging] seven days of dwell time, which is double our historical average.”

Davis said when too many loaded import containers are sitting around, it affects the port’s yards, roads and ability to service ships.

“We get new boxes from ships all the time and when we have dwell, it slows things down,” he said. “We get congested terminals where boxes don’t move and it’s not a good thing for us.”

Port Houston is also considering increasing the fees beyond $45 for even longer-aging cargo sitting on its docks. 

The “excessive import dwell fee” would be levied at the discretion of Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther on longer-dwelling containers. It would be implemented following 30 days of public notice and remain in effect for at least 60 days. 

The excessive import dwell fees would charge $50 per unit per day for one to three days after free time; $75 per unit per day for four to seven days after; $100 per unit per day for eight to 13 days after; and $150 per unit per day for 14 or more days after.

Both fees would apply at the port’s Barbours Cut and Bayport container terminals and require the amounts be paid before a container could be released from the facilities. The fees would be assessed toward ocean carriers and beneficial cargo owners.

Other seaports across the U.S. also dealing with loaded import containers clogging their yards for longer than usual have also discussed imposing fees. 

Both the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have proposed dwell fees for containers that remain at the 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 being stored in the port for long periods.

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