Los Angeles ports will fine cargo ships waiting to unload their goods in an attempt to relieve congestion that is as desperate as it is gobsmackingly stupid.
It’s a fine so pointless and wrong that, of course, Presidentish Joe Biden has chimed in with his support for it.
According to CNBC, the White House is “hopeful” that fines will “ease the intensifying logjam of cargo ships” waiting to unload at Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles. Together, the two account for 40% of the country’s seaborne imports.
Carriers will have to pay “$100 per day for each container lingering past a given timeline” starting on the first of the month. Containers moved by truck will have nine days before they’ll start paying, and containers moved by rail will have just three days.
To show you just how wrong that is, allow me to use a down-home example.
My sons, ages 15 and 11, like to play a familiar game. The older, bigger one will hold the younger, shorter one at arm’s length by his forehead. The shorter one will then try to hit the taller one — to no avail because his shorter arms just can’t get there.
Now imagine that the older boy fined the younger one $100 for each missed punch because that’s pretty much what Los Angeles ports are doing to carriers.
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Carriers can’t unload their containers for a whole host of reasons.
One reason is that the LA ports still haven’t managed to get their operations up to 24/7, even though everybody saw the problem coming from a mile away. Another is that California’s emissions standards prevent older (but still cleaner-running) semis from operating in the state just when they need every truck they can get on the road. California’s AB-5 anti-gig-worker law makes it difficult for independent truckers to drive in California, even when their rigs meet the new emissions standards. Customs facilities are overwhelmed as are the local railheads.
Please, someone in Los Angeles, point out to me which one of these problems is the fault of the carriers? While it’s nice that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is opening his state’s ports for extra business, the Panama Canal can only accommodate so much west-to-east traffic. Anyway, the extra travel time — particularly if Panama isn’t an option — would only add to the country’s growing consumer goods delays and shortages.
I’m not a Big Government guy, but there are critical times when Big Government can pitch in. Incentives for extra longshoremen, expanded temporary customs facilities, lifting self-defeating laws and regulations (like AB-5 and truck emissions standards) at least temporarily.
Instead, Los Angeles ports are slapping fines on the carriers who neither caused this nor have much choice other than to sit there until Big Government unsnarls this Gordian knot they’ve tied.
Let’s call this what it is: a cash-grab by Los Angeles enabled by Big Government’s inability to assuage a problem caused by Big Government.