In mid-October, President Joe Biden stated from the White House the Port of Los Angeles would become a 24/7 operation until further notice, remaining open at all hours of the day and night. This decision — which the president called a "game changer" — was aimed at reducing the volume of containers and ships seeking to offload cargo at one of the nation's busiest ports.

Close to a month after making that announcement, the backlog there seems to be dwindling, but perhaps not at the speed the administration — nor anyone else, for that matter — would like. As a result, the Port of Los Angeles is slated to hand out fines to shipping companies that are dragging their feet. So far, that policy seems to be having its intended effect.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, ocean carrier companies whose containers are taking too long to be removed from terminals will be hit with a fine. Set to go into effect on Nov. 15, the cost of these fines will depend on how long containers have been there. Currently, businesses have six days to clear the area, but if it goes beyond that, the charge will be doubled for every additional day that it takes. For example, one day will cost them $100, two days is $200, three days is $400, and on from there. The Port of Long Beach will be adopting this same rule.

Shipping containers are slowly but surely dwindling at California's main ports.Shipping containers are slowly but surely dwindling at California's main ports.

Congestion is easing
The intent behind the fine is to provide a greater sense of urgency to the issue. So far, even though the fees are not in force as of this writing, containers are moving at a faster clip, according to Noel Hacegaba, who serves as deputy executive director at the Port of Long Beach.

"This fee is already meeting its objective," Hacegaba said in a prepared statement obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Indeed, since shipping companies were made aware of this new fee, container volume has slid by 26% at the Port of Long Beach and by 14% at the Port of Los Angeles, the paper reported. That translates to 10,000 fewer containers.

'Not like flipping a light switch'
While this is a notable improvement, it didn't start out that way. Approximately 24 hours after Biden's speech, there were five dozen container ships anchored in San Pedro Bay waiting to offload, according to the Wall Street Journal. Slated to arrive within days were an additional 25 ships, said Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles.

John Porcari, a port envoy who was named to the Biden administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force in August, told the WSJ at the time it would take the 24/7 port policy a while to bear fruit.

"This is not like flipping a light switch," Porcari said.

Today, however, those who frequent these ports say congestion conditions have definitely improved — albeit incrementally. Harbor Trucking Association Chief Executive Matt Schrap said this is particularly true of new boxes, as previously, the dwell time for new containers was significant; that's not the case anymore. Schrap told the Los Angeles Times he believes the fee has been the catalyst.

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