FMC wants more information on PierPass changes

Date: Friday, May 25, 2018
Source: American Shipper

The Federal Maritime Commission said Thursday that it issued a request for additional information to the West Coast Marine Terminal Agreement (WCMTOA) in response to its plan to revise the PierPass OffPeak program in the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
   FMC did not detail the kind of additional information it is seeking from WCMTOA — and does not as a matter of policy do so. It said once WCMTOA responds to the questions posed in its request, it will have another 45 days to analyze the amendment.
    John Cushing, the president and chief executive officer of PierPass, said the request was not unexpected and that he expected the response could be put together in a timely fashion. He said the questions will go to the 12 terminal companies that belong to WCMTOA and that it is not a public document.
    Last month the terminals belonging to WCMTOA filed amendments to make changes they believe will improve service levels at container terminals in the San Pedro Bay complex. 
   Their plan is to revise PierPass, which was originally created in 2005, to reduce cargo-related traffic congestion and pollution from trucks on roadways in and around the two ports.
    In order to encourage shippers to pick up and deliver containers at night or on Saturdays, PierPass charges a fee on containers picked up and delivered during weekdays.
   PierPass has proposed that instead, it will charge a lower flat fee around the clock on container transactions. Traffic would be spread out by requiring shippers to have a reservation in order for their truckers to transact business at the marine terminals.
    PierPass says the fees are used to help fund the cost of terminals staying open for extended hours.  
    While the existing program has succeeded in moving about half of the truck traffic at the two ports to nights or weekends, some shippers have long bristled at the fees and questioned why the terminals don’t just collect the money they need from the container lines that are their customers rather than from shippers.
    The proposed changes have gotten mixed reviews — some shippers, government officials and major organizations representing truckers such as the Harbor Trucking Association and California Trucking Association have applauded the planned changes. Other shippers or their associations have raised objections to the program or revisions.
    The FMC could discuss possible changes with PierPass and could theoretically even seek an injunction against WCMTOA over the revised agreement if it feels the changes will result in an unreasonable reduction in transportation service or an unreasonable increase in transportation cost. But FMC has only tried to use its injunction power against an agreement once — and then unsuccessfully.

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