New Jersey agrees to do away with Port Authority cargo shipping fees

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 1/24/2014

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law that could spell the end for collection of a cargo facility charge by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

New Jersey lawmakers approved the change on the final day of the two-year legislative session that ended earlier this month. S2747 prohibits the third-largest port in the nation from charging a fee on cargo facility users, ocean and rail carriers and marine terminal operators.

However, a fee could be imposed as long as 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 change 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 recent news release.

Gordon and others 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.

Although New Jersey lawmakers approved the change it doesn’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.

New York Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, introduced a bill – S6156 – this month that would adopt the rule change in the Empire State.

Another new law in New Jersey covers a generation of truckers and other drivers traveling America’s roads that 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 governor signed into law a bill that changes the rule on working brake lights. A354 punishes motorists if any one of the brake lights doesn’t work.

Violators would face $47 fines 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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