Possible strike may lead to port congestion surcharges

by Array

NORTH BERGEN, New Jersey—The collapse of talks between US east coast port workers and port operators may lead to an imposition of extra charges on containers being shipped into Canada and the United States.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (known as USMX) have been attempting to negotiate a new labour agreement, but the discussions broke down in August. Today, both parties agreed to resume negotiations beginning the week of September 17. The current employment contract expires on September 30.

In expectation of a lock-out or strike, several shipping companies have filed notice with the US Federal Maritime Commission that they intended to impose a port congestion surcharge.

One of the companies is Maersk Line. It explained its reasoning in a letter to its customers.

“In order to address the potential risk of significantly increased port congestion as a result of any labour related issues, Maersk Line will be implementing a port congestion surcharge (CON) applicable to all shipments to/from ports in the United States and Canada with effect from 1 October 2012.”

Both Maersk and Cosco Container Lines will be charging as follows:

  • US$800 per 20 foot container
  • US$1000 per 40 foot container
  • US$1125 per 40 foot high cube (HC)
  • US$1266 per 45 foot container

Other companies are using different rates. Hanjin Shipping, for example, will charge:

  • US$800 per 20 foot container
  • US$1000 per 40 foot container
  • US$1000 per 45 foot container

If a labour disruption is avoided, the charges will not be imposed.