Stacked containers are shown as ships unload their cargo at the Port of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

FMC Ramping Up Its Review of Ocean Carriers’ Export Services

Mike Schuler
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April 22, 2022

U.S. Federal Maritime Commission staffers are working “expeditiously” on an initiative to examine how ocean carriers are serving U.S. export shippers.

The review, which was initiated in March at the directive of FMC Chairman Daniel B. Maffei, is being conducted by the Commission’s Vessel Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) Audit Program, which finished its first round of meetings with 11 key shipping lines this week. The VOCC Audit Team is using the meetings to identify which ocean carriers have export strategies, how well those strategies work, and to urge companies without export strategies to establish one, the FMC said in an update.

“Helping U.S. export shippers is my top priority as Chairman and I will ask my fellow Commissioners and Commission staff to utilize the full extent of our authority to ensure American agricultural producers and manufacturers reach overseas markets,” said Chairman Maffei. “The information the Audit Team is gathering from the shipping lines will be invaluable in identifying what carriers are doing well in carrying exports and where we must push carriers to do more.? It’s one part of our comprehensive effort to encourage the ocean carrier industry to increase export service overall.”

Part of the focus of the VOCC Audit Team meetings is carrier export numbers, with particular focus on agricultural exports.

Information gathered from interviews will provide better insight into market trends and performance, as well as where opportunities exist for individual lines to improve or increase access to service offerings, the FMC said. Initial findings from the interviews will be presented to the Commission at a meeting later this Spring.

The VOCC Audit Team’s examination of export programs is one of several initiatives established by Chairman Maffei to address challenges U.S. export shippers face in securing ocean transportation services to reach overseas markets. Chairman Maffei previously directed the re-assignment of a Commission employee who is an industry veteran to serve as an Export Expert in CADRS to help improve exporter assistance services.

Chairman Maffei has also ordered the Bureau of Enforcement (BoE) and the Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS) to give priority above to any case involving an exporter. In March, the BoE also announced inquiries into five “pop-up” ocean carriers calling U.S. ports to determine if their conduct related to the export trades is compliant with U.S. statutes.

Traditionally, these five “pop-up” carriers have not operated in U.S. trade lanes, but they entered the market in response to record high freight rates for imported cargo to the United States. That review is ongoing, the FMC said.

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