LOS ANGELES — A 5 percent tariff increase that took effect Jan. 1 at the port of Long Beach is spreading throughout California.

The Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners quietly approved the increase, the first for the port since a 10 percent increase in October 1999, following an initial approval by its Maritime Committee in November. Among shipping service fees affected are wharfage (the unloading and loading of a container), dockage, storage and demurrage (charges incurred for delaying pickup of cargo).

The board acted after the California Association of Port Authorities, comprising the state’s 11 publicly owned commercial ports, including Los Angeles, Oakland and San Diego, authorized the increase on Oct. 28. CAPA cited rising costs due to infrastructure and security needs as the main reasons for the boost. The ports of Los Angeles and Oakland are also moving ahead with the increase.

According to Robert Krieger, president of Los Angeles-based freight forwarder Norman Krieger Inc., apparel companies are likely to see the costs of demurrage passed from their importers since transshipment concerns are delaying clearance shipments by weeks.

“Hundreds of shipments are being detained since quotas from China are scarce and get expensive this time of year, and goods made in China end up being shipped from other places,” he said. Still, he said he anticipates minor impact from the tariff increase compared with the skyrocketing costs expected from ocean carriers that have announced rate increases of $450 per 40-foot container in May.

The total value of apparel (knits and wovens) imports coming through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach rose 20 percent to $8.5 billion for the 2003 period of January through June compared to the same period in 2002, according to the U.S. Maritime Administration.

This story first appeared in the January 7, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.