Retailers, shippers offer way to avoid LA-LB box fee
US leading terminal operators, freight forwarders and retail groups have devised a new idea to solve the impasse caused by the federal government's unpopular proposal to levy a container fee on cargo passing through Long Beach and Los Angeles.Gathering for the Waterfront Coalition's "SoCal Port Workshop" in Long Beach, industry representatives raised the possibility of deploying public-private investment schemes to solve the problem. This comes after they first opposed a bill from State Senator Alan Lowenthal to introduce a US$30 per container fee at US west coast ports. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September, but he reportedly did so on condition that the industry would come up with a counter proposal early next year. The revenue earned from the container fees would to be used to finance infrastructure, security and clean air programmes.
Until now, shippers and retailers have opposed the legislative push for container fees because they say it would violate federal laws, divert port traffic and hurt business, The Long Beach Press-Telegram reported. A panel of legislators, economists and health experts meeting to discuss the issue on the eve of the conference had claimed that the container fee would "add no more than pennies to the end price of retail products". The pro-fee faction wants user pay scheme, arguing that public bonds and private funds have already supported such infrastructure but do not sufficiently cover growing needs.
"The basic concept is that people using the ports should be the ones paying for the ports," said Congressman Dana Rohrabacher during the town-hall forum at Long Beach held by Senator Lowenthal. "Container fees make all the sense in the world."