A cargo ship unloads at the Port of New York & New Jersey.
A cargo ship unloads at the Port of New York & New Jersey.

New Jersey’s lawmakers and governor have acted to eliminate fees at the Port of New York & New Jersey, but shipping companies must continue to pay the fees until New York approves similar legislation.

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bill from the New Jersey Legislature that kills the cargo facility fee, which was introduced in 2011.

“This legislation goes a long way in ensuring that the Port of New York & New Jersey remains competitive with ports across the country,” said Doug Morgante, Maersk Line’s director of state government relations, in a news release.

Maersk officials said in May 2013 that the company was not passing the fee on to customers. However, if it was, one large fresh fruit importer who brings produce to the U.S. from South Africa would have faced an additional $7,400 in charges in 2012, they said.

Morgante said the Maersk Line is not passing along the fee because it would cost more to pay for the staff time to process the paperwork for the carrier’s “thousands of customers” than the fee costs.

The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey became the only port agency in the U.S. to impose a cargo facility fee on all containers, including empties, when it enacted the charges, according to a complaint filed with the Federal Maritime Commission.

The fee is $4.95 for 20-foot containers, $9.90 for 40-containers, and $1.11 per unit for vehicle cargo. Maersk officials said in their news release it is costing their company about $3.5 million annually.

In New York, state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer has introduced legislation to kill the fee. Senate bill 6156 has been in the New York Senate’s Transportation Committee since Jan. 8.

The case challenging the fees, filed with the Federal Maritime Commission by nine container ship lines in 2011, is pending.