INT’L FF & NVOCC SPECIAL - National Retail Federation urges Oakland to reject container fees

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  Logistics  

The National Retail Federation NRF urged the Port of Oakland to reject a proposal to impose huge new container fees similar to those approved recently in Los Angeles and Long Beach, and instead adopt a plan to ease air pollution and congestion that is supported by shippers.
“NRF and its members support efforts to reduce emissions and congestion at ports in California and other states,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations Steve Pfister said. “However, we have serious concerns and have expressed opposition to parts of the plans by the (LA/Long Beach) ports that we believe have several serious legal and other flaws, including a substantial likelihood of failing to achieve effective environmental quality improvements.”
“Shippers have demonstrated our willingness to pay our fair share of the cost of improving air quality and infrastructure in the ports,” Pfister said. “But we cannot support proposals that would be illegal, unfair, and ultimately ineffective.”
Rather than following the lead of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Oakland should consider the recommendations made in an industry study released last year. Those recommendations “would achieve our common objectives to impose air quality and reduce congestion in a way that would be fair, legal and generate strong private-sector support,” Pfister said.
Pfister’s comments came in a letter to Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin.
Oakland is reportedly considering a plan similar to one recently adopted by the Los Angles and Long Beach Boards of Port Commissioners that would impose new fees intended to pay for road, bridge and rail infrastructure improvements and diesel truck replacements as part of a plan to ease traffic congestion and air pollution around the ports. The LA/Long Beach plan includes a $30 fee for each 40-foot container moving in or out of the ports earmarked for infrastructure and another $70 per-container fee intended to help fund the purchase of new, lower-emission trucks.
The joint LA/Long Beach plan includes infrastructure projects and requires replacement of trucks serving the ports, but its emissions standards would apply only to port trucks. In addition, Los Angles is likely to approve an additional provision that would eventually ban independent truckers and force drivers to become employees of trucking companies – a move seen as an attempt to increase unionization. Many of the infrastructure projects funded are located off port property, and NRF has argued that the ports lack the legal authority to impose fees to fund projects outside their gates. NRF has also said the fees should be limited to containers moved by truck rather than rail since most of the projects funded are highway and bridge improvements.
The NRF-backed alternate calls for statewide emissions standards, would create a fund to help pay for truck replacement, and would create a public-private partnership to pay for infrastructure improvements. Independent truckers would not be banned. Released in March 2007, the plan was prepared jointly by NRF, the American Association of Railroads, the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, the Waterfront Coalition and other groups involved in the shipment of cargo through California ports. While the fees address only California ports, they are of interest to retailers nationwide because those ports are the gateway for the majority of merchandise imported from Asia.
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail companies, more than 25 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2007 sales of $4.5 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents over 100 state, national and international

American Journal of Transportation