In response to complaints by U.S. exporters and Democratic and Republican Congressional representatives, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced that it was ordering 10 ocean carriers and 17 marine terminals to report on demurrage and detention practices and penalties assessed on shippers as well as the availability of empty containers for U.S. exporters to ship their goods.
A March 17th letter addressed to the Congressional representatives and signed by FMC Chair Michael A. Khouri and four FMC Commissioners announced that:
“Last week, Commissioner Dye ordered ten (sic) Vessel-Operating Common Carriers and 17 Marine Terminal Operators to provide a compulsory report on their practices related to demurrage and detention, empty container return, and the availability of containers for the carriage of U.S. exports. The responses to this compulsory order will inform Commissioner Dye’s next steps to address this critical issue. The Commission will take action against practices that violate the law.”
The letter went on to say: “The ability of American companies to reach overseas markets is an important issue. One of the statutorily established purposes of the Federal Maritime Commission is to “promote the growth and development of United States exports through competitive and efficient ocean transportation and by placing a greater reliance on the marketplace.” We are mindful of this direction in discharging our regulatory responsibilities.”
On March 25th, Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition welcomed the FMC’s action: “Our members, the nation’s agriculture and forest products exporters and importers, are encouraged by the response to the Committee’s timely directive, namely that the Commission is united behind Commissioner Dye’s initiative, as it has the potential to significantly reduce unreasonable demurrage and detention charges. But the export transport crisis continues, with lost sales and other additional costs amounting to millions of dollars a week. Solutions are urgently required; we are continuing to work with Congress, USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) and the FMC to expedite relief.”
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