General Tariff No. 1: Harbor Improvement Surcharge

How much is the Surcharge?

The charges for the Harbor Improvement Surcharge are divided into two categories, vessels and cargo. For vessels, the charge is $500.00 per commercial barge, ship or other vessel over 200 feet in length or 20 foot of draft using any portion of the Bar, Entrance Channel, North Bay or Samoa Channels. 

For cargo, the charge is $0.15 (U.S.) per short ton or $0.1653 (U.S.) per metric ton for any cargo on board a vessel using any portion of the Bar and Entrance Channel and an additional $0.15 (U.S.) per short ton or $0.1653 (U.S.) per metric ton for any cargo on board a vessel using any portion of the North Bay and Samoa Channels. Total cargoes of 10 tons or less are exempt from the cargo portion of the Surcharge. In addition, the cargo charge is only based on that cargo delivered or exported from terminals in Humboldt Bay. Cargo originating from another Port and remaining on the vessel in Humboldt Bay is exempt from the cargo portion of the Surcharge.

For the purpose of the Harbor Improvement Surcharge, "cargo" is defined as "the goods, merchandise or whatever is conveyed in a ship or other merchant vessel". Therefore, anything that fits this definition will be subject to the Harbor Improvement Surcharge.


In order to increase the import/export opportunities and better service existing deep-water commerce at the Port of Humboldt Bay, the Humboldt Bay Harbor District examined the feasibility of deepening the Port's main shipping channels. In the period of 1988 to 2000, numerous engineering, environmental and economic studies were completed by the US Army Corps of Engineers and others which resulted in a preferred project. More than $1 million dollars of Harbor District funds were invested during this stage of project development. The preferred deepening project involved deepening Humboldt Bay's Bar and Entrance Channels from -40' to -48' (MLLW) and deepening the North Bay and Samoa Channels from -35' to -38' (MLLW). The Project was awarded to a joint venture of Manson Construction of Washington and Bean-Stuyvesant of Louisiana on June 4, 1999. Work began on August 5, 1999 and was completed on April 18, 2000. Nearly 5 million cubic yards were dredged.

Funding for the Deepening Project was split between the Corps of Engineers and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District. The Corps is responsible for 65 percent of the construction costs while the Harbor District is responsible for the remaining 35 percent. This 35 percent, or approximately $5,000,000, was extremely difficult for the Harbor District to obtain. The majority of these funds were borrowed by the Harbor District and included a $1 million contribution by the Eureka Redevelopment Agency. After a great deal of research and discussions with shippers, General Tariff No. 1 was enacted in order to provide a mechanism to recover a portion of the annual debt service on the borrowed funds.

The Harbor Deepening Project has always been a "business improvement" project intended to improve economic conditions in Humboldt County. The Board of Commissioners of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District spent a great deal of time and effort to create as fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory a funding program as possible to ensure the completion of this regionally important project.

How the Surcharge Works

The Harbor Improvement Surcharge in General Tariff No. I was created under the authority of Section 208 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (33 U.S.C. 2236) and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District's authority codified in Appendix II of the California Harbors and Navigation Code. General Tariff No. 1 was published in the Federal Register in accordance with Federal Maritime Commission regulations on June 27, 1997 and August 19, 1997. Final adoption by the Humboldt Bay Harbor District occurred on August 28, 1997.

Collection of the Surcharge

In general, users of Humboldt Bay subject to the Harbor Improvement Surcharge are required to enter into a usage and depository agreement with the Harbor District wherein self-reporting criteria and collection options are outlined. The self-reporting nature of the reporting and collection is intended to minimize the costs of administering the Surcharge. Under these collection means, no additional Harbor District staff or expenses are planned for the administration of the Surcharge. If non-compliance by industry, shippers or vessel owners require additional Harbor District staff for collection and monitoring of the program, these expenses may be added to the Surcharge.

Other Questions

Click here to read  General Tariff No. 1  &  Amendment No. 7 to Ordinance 15