Container Shipping: CMA CGM expands intermodal surcharge to LA-LB haulage

The tightening of US drayage capacity is most acute in Southern California (Port of Los Angeles pictured), where retailers are funneling their imports to meet e-commerce demand and rebuild depleted inventories. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Citing congestion in Southern California, CMA CGM is expanding its £350 emergency intermodal surcharge beyond inland destinations to include all containers moved out of the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex for local delivery and to area rail ramps. 

In a customer notice Monday, the carrier said it will implement the emergency surcharge starting Nov.

30 and Dec.

2 at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, respectively. CMA CGM said "the charge allows for managing escalating costs in order to continue to provide a proper level of service." 

The emergency intermodal surcharge currently only applies to containers originating from Southern California into nine major inland markets, including Chicago and Memphis. The expanded LA-LB surcharge applies to local truck delivery moved via carrier haulage, but such moves in which a shipper has designated a specific trucker are exempt from the fee.

The emergency surcharge also applies to containers trucked from marine terminals and moved under merchant haulage to rail ramps outside the port in Southern California. 

Under carrier haulage, the container line facilitates the trucking transportation from the marine terminal, whereas under merchant haulage, the shipper or consignee contracts a drayage provider to handle the truck move. 

CMA CGM's move to expand the intermodal surcharge to Southern California reflects what some forwarders and drayage operators say is a worsening situation at the port complex as elevated Asia import volumes don't let up. Chassis are in short supply, truckers struggle to get appointments to return empty containers, and marine terminals are overwhelmed. 

The tightening of US drayage capacity is most acute in Southern California, where retailers are funneling their imports to meet e-commerce demand and rebuild depleted inventories.

With volumes elevated, port truckers are increasingly picking and choosing which marine terminal they'll serve based on how long it will take them to pick up a load or return an empty or loaded container, said Brian Kempisty, founder of Port X Logistics, a trucking services provider at major US ports.

Unsurprisingly, drayage rates are rising. "You can't hire a driver for 30 bucks an hour right now," Kempisty said, noting company drivers could be attracted by wages in the low £20s a year ago, but now it may take £35 per hour or more to get drivers in this current market.

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