For the fourth time, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles have postponed a surcharge on containers that sit on docks for extended periods of time, the port authorities announced today.

The fee, which could have gone into effect today, has been delayed again until at least Dec. 13.

“Since the fee was announced on Oct. 25, the twin ports have seen a combined decline of 37% in aging cargo on the docks,” according to a joint statement by the ports.

Chart courtesy of the Port of Long Beach.

Port of Long Beach data shows that the number of containers subject to the surcharge dropped 37% from Oct. 28 to Nov. 24. However, the number of containers waiting for extended periods has increased since then; on Nov. 29, that number was only 18% lower than it was on Oct. 28. As of Monday, there were 21% fewer dwelling containers than on Oct. 28.

The fee would be charged to shippers if containers to be hauled by trucks sat on dock nine days or longer, or if those destined for rail sat for three days or longer. The fee would be $100 for the first day and increase in $100 increments each subsequent day.

However, progress in clearing cargo more quickly has caused the ports to delay the fee numerous times. The program began Nov. 1 with the fee slated to be assessed beginning Nov. 15. On that date, citing improvements, the ports postponed the fee until Nov. 22. Then Nov. 29. Then Dec. 6.

Prior to the cargo surge brought on by shifting spending habits favoring e-commerce among the pandemic, dwell times for containers averaged four days for trucks and less than two days for those waiting for rail.

If the fee is eventually imposed, the funds would be reinvested in programs to enhance efficiency, accelerate cargo velocity and address impacts of port congestion.

The facility’s executive directors will reassess implementation of the fee in one week.