State of Freight

Port of New York and New Jersey delay late container fee scheduled to hit ocean carriers

Key Points
  • A late container fee at nation's third largest port is to be reworked, with the goal to have a tariff in place in the fourth quarter.
  • Strikes at Liverpool and Felixstowe would push back delivery of holiday items into December at the earliest, and North America is Liverpool's No. 1 trading partner.
  • Diageo, Caterpillar, Donaldson, and Xerox are just some companies who use Liverpool port.
The Global Supply Chain: Temporary relief at one of the world's largest ports
VIDEO2:2102:21
The Global Supply Chain: Temporary relief at one of the world's largest ports

New York and New Jersey port officials tell CNBC they are not going live with the container fee they had planned for September 1. The Port of New Jersey has had a container imbalance of over 200,000 since January and the fee was to encourage the evacuation of both late full and empty containers.

The decision was made after what port officials said were numerous discussions with ocean carriers in August which turned up what port officials described as unforeseen circumstances. Port officials say the ocean carriers have been "very engaged and responsive" in the last month.

Shipping containers at a container terminal at the Port of Long Beach-Port of Los Angeles complex, in Los Angeles, California, April 7, 2021.
Lucy Nicholson | Reuters

Right now empty boxes are sitting at the port for around 30 days. Delays in moving out import containers into the U.S. and empties out so they can be reloaded with goods delays the delivery of goods for the U.S. supply chain.

According to MarineTraffic, the Port of New York ranked second among U.S. ports with the most containers waiting offshore. Savannah had the most, followed by Houston.

Several ocean carriers have made commitments and are actively working on plans to move empties and helping to restore fluidity to the port. 

Once the modification is made, port officials tell CNBC the goal is to have the tariff in place for the fourth quarter of this year with the first invoices to be issued in January. The invoices would be based on the carrier's Q4 balance of containers and their efforts to move out empties.

West Coast woes

The logistical woes on the West Coast continue. The Port of Oakland continues to move out containers that piled up during the five-day trucker strike back in July.

The rail delays are not improving on the West Coast. Logistics managers are measuring rail delays of 12 days at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. For containers that are moved by a combination of truck and rail, delays are at 30 days. The congestion on the rails is also impacting inland rails as well with delays between five to seven days.

New port strike in U.K. is possible

On the heels of the eight-day strike at the U.K.'s largest container port Felixstowe which tied up billions in trade, logistics managers are anxiously watching if the dockworkers will join Liverpool port workers in a possible strike on September 19.

The diversion of trade away from Felixstowe to the already congested German ports and the strike itself at Felixstowe have created massive gridlock, according to the CNBC Europe Supply Chain Heat Map.

Unions for both Felixstowe and Liverpool dockworkers are in active discussions with their respective port companies on wages. The length of time of this possible strike has yet to be announced.

"The 8-day strike in Felixstowe has ended without any agreement between the unions and the port," said Andreas Braun, Europe, Middle East, and Africa ocean product director of Crane Worldwide Logistics. "Talks are ongoing but time is running out. If both parties will not settle for an agreement shortly, we can expect new strike actions by the unions most probably joining the actions of the unions in Liverpool."

Liverpool is traditionally a U.K. gateway to and from the U.S.

"Right now congestion is only limited to Felixstowe but if Liverpool dockworkers strike, it will create additional congestion and delay container exports to the U.S," explained Braun.

Liverpool's main trading partner is North America, but relationships are expanding with Asia. Looking at the bills of lading using ImportGenius products exported out of Liverpool to the U.S. include Bailey's, Walker's shortbread, auto parts for Ford and other companies, toner cartridges, and parts for Xerox, Guinness from Diaego, wood furniture and sections for Raymour & Flannigan, air filtration parts for Donaldson, and long bar steel for Caterpillar

If these dock workers do strike, this will further push back the arrival of holiday items into at least December.

The CNBC Supply Chain Heat Map data providers are artificial intelligence and predictive analytics company Everstream Analytics; global freight booking platform Freightos, creator of the Freightos Baltic Dry Index; logistics provider OL USA; supply chain intelligence platform FreightWaves; supply chain platform Blume Global; third-party logistics provider Orient Star Group; marine analytics firm MarineTraffic; maritime visibility data company Project44; maritime transport data company MDS Transmodal UK; ocean and air freight rate benchmarking and market analytics platform Xeneta; leading provider of research and analysis Sea-Intelligence ApS; Crane Worldwide Logistics; and air, DHL Global Forwarding; freight logistics provider Seko Logistics; and Planet,  provider of global, daily satellite imagery and geospatial solutions.