WASHINGTON – The Federal Maritime Commission is demanding information from ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to determine if legal obligations related to detention and demurrage practices related to freight containers are being met.
The move is part of the commission’s “International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement” investigation, or “Fact Finding 29,” and comes as shippers face skyrocketing demurrage fees due to in getting containers out of heavily congested ocean ports.
The Commission initiated the investigation last March in order to identify operational solutions to cargo delivery system challenges related to COVID-19.
In November, FMC had approved a supplemental order that expanded Fact Finding 29’s authority, authorizing Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye as the designated fact-finding officer. She was charged with investigating ocean carriers operating in alliances and calling at the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles, or the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The expanded investigation is seeking to determine if the policies and practices of those shipping companies related to detention and demurrage, container return, and container availability for U.S. export cargoes violate 46 U.S.C. 41102(c) under U.S. shipping regulations. That rule prohibits unjust and unreasonable practices and regulations related to, or connected with, receiving, handling, storing or delivering property.
In this latest development, Commissioner Dye’s demand-for-information orders target ocean carriers calling at the ports listed above as well as terminal operators at those ports. The demand orders also will require carriers and MTOs to provide information on their policies and practices related to container returns and container availability for exporters.
Failure of carriers and MTOs to operate in a way consistent with the Interpretive Rule on Detention and Demurrage, might constitute a violation of 46 USC 41102(c). Information received from parties receiving demands may be used as a basis for hearings, Commission enforcement action or further rule-making.
I’m Powell Slaughter, senior editor at Furniture/Today. I returned to the publication in January 2015 after nine years of writing about furniture retail strategies and best practices at a monthly magazine focusing on home furnishings retail operations. Prior to that, I spent 10 years with F/T covering wood furniture, the last five of those as case goods editor. Upon my return to F/T, I developed coverage of the logistical and service aspects of the furniture industry as well as following the occasional, home office and home entertainment categories. In April 2018 I took over the upholstery category, with responsibility for coverage of the fabric and leather stationary and motion upholstery, recliners and massage chair categories.