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FMC confirms it is investigating container shipping lines

We have seen various reports confirming that the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is investigating alleged excessive tariff fees that ocean carriers charge shippers.

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The FMC met virtually and in closed session on 7 April to discuss developments in the ongoing FactFinding 29 investigation of challenges to the freight delivery system and possible Shipping Act violations, and to receive a briefing on the agency’s monitoring activities of ocean carrier alliances.

Commissioner Rebecca Dye reported on developments related to her investigation into the behaviour and practices of certain ocean carriers and marine terminal operators during the past six months where US supply chains have been stretched to the maximum.

“While most participants in the supply chain are doing their best to cope with the unprecedented import boom, there are reports of containership lines and terminal operators unfairly taking advantage of the situation or denying service to exporters in a way that may violate the Shipping Act. We must get to the bottom of this situation as soon as possible and that’s why Commissioner Dye’s investigation is crucial,” said the FMC.

In addition, the FMC is investigating alleged excessive tariff fees that ocean carriers charge shippers. The outcome could lead to new tariff regulations. An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) looking into the matter, published on 8 April, is the latest action by the FMC on container carrier billing practices, including an investigation into charges for services that may not have been part of the shipping contract.

The FMC said it is also concerned with “widely varying” interpretations and inappropriate application of “pass-through” charges to shippers without markup (not to exceed the charge the common carrier incurs) in connection with shipments moving under common carrier tariffs. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

More information can be obtained from the longer news items that can be seen here:

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