Federal Commissioner calls for audit of PierPass shipping

By Charlie Morasch, Land Line contributing writer | Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that traffic mitigation fees are billed directly to cargo owners.

Fees assessed to cargo containers through a West Coast port program should be audited, the head of a federal shipping body said last week.

Such an audit may prove noteworthy to cargo owners who pay special fees and wait in line for cargo for hours at the Twin Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

PierPass’s Off-Peak shipping program was launched by marine terminal operators 10 years ago in an effort to even cargo flows during peak daytime hours and encourage container pickups and deliveries during off-peak hours.

In late June, PierPass announced a 4 percent increase of its Traffic Mitigation Fee from $66.50 to $69.17 per 20-foot-equivalent unit. PierPass’s fees were $40 per 20-foot-equivalent unit when the program launched 10 years ago.

The fees are applied during truck visits to port terminals during traditional business hours.

Mardio Cordero, Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, reportedly told a meeting of the California Trucking Association recently that trucking companies should have PierPass’s attention when considering changes to improve cargo flow.

“Let’s have a third-party audit,” Cordero said, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “Let’s build on what we have here.”

Cordero has been calling for a closer look at PierPass for weeks. In the July statement, Cordero said less than 20 percent of all containers moving through the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are assessed the traffic mitigation fee.

“PierPass should justify why such a small portion of container traffic bears the burden of paying for the off-peak shifts.”

Drayage truckers and shippers have requested each terminal provide data on truck queue and dwell times, though marine terminal owners haven’t offered any information, Cordero said. A 2011 study found some terminals to be two to three times faster than the slowest terminals, Cordero said.

“(Marine terminal owners) should seriously consider publishing their individual queue and dwell times so that truckers and shippers can better utilize their operations,” Cordero said.

PierPass President John Cushing apparently disagreed with Cordero’s statement. Cushing contends PierPass already discloses all of the information Cordero claims would be revealed by an audit.

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