Report: American Ports Top the List for D&D Fees Worldwide

At an average of $2,700 per box in the U.S. market, these fees add up fast

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Published Jul 6, 2022 12:03 AM by The Maritime Executive

According to new data published by Container xChange, America's big container ports rank at the top of the list for demurrage and detention charges - a finding that will come as no surprise to American shippers and truckers, who have been fighting high D&D fees for years. 

The report ranks seaports by the average amount of D&D charges levied by ocean carriers (measured two weeks after cargo arrival). The ports themselves have little control over D&D rates, but local congestion conditions and carrier policies mean that the end price for the shipper varies from port to port. All five out of the five most expensive ports for D&D charges are in the United States, according to Container xChange.

New York takes first place, followed by Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Savannah. All are about two to three times as expensive as the seventh-most-expensive port, Hong Kong - and 20 times more expensive than Dalian or Busan. At LA/Long Beach, the average D&D charge assessed two weeks after discharge came to about $2,700 per box this May. This charge is about the same as the full cost of shipping a 20-foot box across the Pacific in early 2020, at the outset of the pandemic. 

These extra fees have attracted the ire of American shippers, who have to pay charges for containers which they cannot pick up or cannot return (often due to terminal operator or carrier policies). The Biden administration and its allies in Congress have responded by passing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which enhances the ability of the Federal Maritime Commission to intervene in D&D fee disputes. The act also puts responsibility for proving the reasonableness of fees onto the container lines, which have extracted millions of dollars in extra charges from American truckers and shippers - even as they earn unprecedented profits from ultra-high freight rates.

“Throughout this pandemic as shipping costs have soared and inflation has become a threat to the U.S. economy, the focus on container line behavior by politicians and regulators has magnified,” said Christian Roeloffs, co-founder of Container xChange. “U.S. agricultural shippers have been particularly outspoken about their inability to find affordable empty containers for exports. But importers have been equally outraged by what many believe has been profiteering on D&D charges by container lines. Some have started legal actions against carriers."