The Specialty Soya and Grains Alliance applauds the Federal Maritime Commission’s decision last week to issue an information demand to ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to answer questions on detention and demurrage practices, as well as policies and practices related to container returns and container availability to exporters.

In a statement issued Feb. 17, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced that Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye issued the order to determine if “ocean carriers operating in an alliance and calling the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of New York & New Jersey” are meeting their legal obligations, along with marine terminal operators (MTOs) at those ports.

According to the FMC press release:

The orders are being issued under the authority Commissioner Dye has as the Fact Finding Officer for Fact Finding 29, “International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement.” …

Failure of carriers and MTOs to operate in a way consistent with the Interpretive Rule on Detention and Demurrage that became effective on May 18, 2020, might constitute a violation of 46 USC 41102(c) which prohibits unjust and unreasonable practices and regulations related to, or connected with, receiving, handling, storing, or delivering property.

Information received from parties receiving demands may be used as a basis for hearings, Commission enforcement action or further rulemaking.

In October, SSGA was among the first national agricultural associations to shine a light on the disruption of the food supply chain and other critical problems facing containerized ag exports after members had been informed that some ocean carriers were suspending containerized and other overseas ag shipments in order to keep up with import demand of goods from Asia.

“In their haste to meet increased demands for foreign imports to the United States, the ocean carriers have left U.S. ag exporters behind while clogging the ports and disrupting the supply chain throughout the system, including rail and trucking,” said Eric Wenberg, SSGA executive director. “That’s why the Federal Maritime Commission needed to step in. But more needs to be done.

“Now, ocean carriers and marine terminal operators must cooperate with the FMC, and the hope is this can be resolved quickly so our members’ products and ingredients can get to the foreign food manufacturers who have been patiently waiting for them.”

On Feb. 9, SSGA representatives had the opportunity to give testimony to the FMC, along with a large contingent of national ag organizations, including the National Grain and Feed Association and the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.