Federal Maritime Commission held a virtual meeting Wednesday discuss developments in the ongoing fact finding investigation into challenges facing the ocean transportation supply chain system and possible Shipping Act violations by ocean carrier alliances and terminal operators.
The closed-door hearing was the first meeting presided over by FMC Chairman Daniel B. Maffei since he was designated head of agency by President Biden last week. The meeting was a closed session because the agenda items dealt with an ongoing investigation and confidential commercial information.
Commissioner Rebecca Dye, who serves as the Fact Finding Officer for the investigation, reported on developments related to investigation into the behavior and practices of certain ocean carriers and marine terminal operators. Staff from the Commission’s Bureau of Trade Analysis also presented an update to the Commission on overall trends of the U.S. economy and its relation to the ongoing monitoring of three ocean carrier alliance agreements (2M, OCEAN Alliance, and THE Alliance).
“While most participants in the supply chain are doing their best to cope with the unprecedented import boom, there are reports of container ship 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 ASAP and that’s why Commissioner Dye’s investigation is crucial,” said Chairman Maffei. “Just yesterday, Commissioner Dye and I met with the leaders of two important House subcommittees. These issues clearly have their attention and companies providing ocean transportation services would be well served to voluntarily take steps that address these challenges.”
The FMC initiated Fact Finding No. 29 back in March 2020 to identify operational solutions to cargo delivery system challenges related to COVID-19.
As part of the investigation, the FMC in February ordered ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to supply information to determine if legal obligations related to detention and demurrage practices are being met amid the unprecedented cargo boom at U.S. ports. The demand orders also required certain carriers and terminal operators to provide information on their policies and practices related to container returns and container availability for exporters.
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