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1/16/2014
Days numbered for Port Authority of NY/NJ cargo shipping fees?
By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor

The days could be numbered for collection of a cargo facility charge by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The New Jersey Assembly voted unanimously on the final day of the two-year legislative session to send a bill to the governor that would prohibit the third-largest port in the nation from charging a fee on cargo facility users, ocean and rail carriers and marine terminal operators. Senate lawmakers already approved the bill by unanimous consent.

However, S2747 would permit a fee to be imposed if both parties have a written mutual agreement.

In 2011, the bi-state agency became the only port in the country to impose a cargo facility charge on all containers passing through the port, by truck or by rail. The fee charged is $4.95 for 20-foot containers, $9.90 for 40-containers, and $1.11 per unit for vehicle cargo.

Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen, said the bill is necessary to protect the competitiveness of the region’s port and the jobs it supports.

“By imposing a tax on ocean carriers, the authority has driven up the cost of doing business locally and driven freight to other ports along the East Coast,” Gordon said in a news release.

Supporters say the legislation is critical to ensure the port’s competitiveness as widening of the Panama Canal nears completion in 2015. The project will allow larger, more modern ships to pass through the port.

“New Jersey is investing millions of dollars in upgrading one of the world’s busiest ports, and we must ensure we do all we can to keep it competitive,” stated Assemblyman Dave Rible, R-Monmouth.

If signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, the change wouldn’t automatically take effect. Because New Jersey shares control of the Port Authority with New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo must also sign off on the change.

Another bill on its way to Gov. Christie’s desk addresses a generation of truckers and other drivers traveling America’s roads who are accustomed to seeing three brake lights illuminate when a passenger vehicle ahead is slowing down.

New Jersey law requires that passenger vehicles have two working brake lights. However, since the fall of 1985 affected vehicles must also be equipped with a high-mounted rear stoplight.

The Assembly voted 78-1 to sign off on Senate changes to a bill that would change the rule on working brake lights. A354 would punish motorists if any one of the brake lights doesn’t work.

If signed into law, $47 fines would be authorized for a non-working light.

Sen. Nicholas Sacco, D-Hudson, recently said the change is necessary because drivers are used to watching for the third brake light while driving, and a blown bulb could reduce someone’s reaction time.

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