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Commentary: AgTC applauds FMC’s push of Shipping Act mandates

Shippers, forwarders and truckers encouraged to alert commission about booking cancellations and unfair demurrage and detention charges

Photo: iStock

The Agriculture Transportation Coalition and a broad array of exporters, importers, truckers, forwarders — essentially the entire American shipping public — is encouraged and grateful to the Federal Maritime Commission leaders for their initiatives this past week. 

For several years, we have petitioned the FMC to intervene to help U.S. ag exporters (and all shippers) survive debilitating and unfair detention and demurrage, punitive “free time” policies (imposed on smaller shippers and exporters), canceled and declined export bookings, cargo continually rolled, lack of containers, limited access to chassis, inaccurate ERDs or none at all — the list goes on.

The Shipping Act mandates “reasonable” practices in ocean shipping. Last year the FMC’s rule provided ocean carriers and marine terminals with guidelines for reasonable demurrage and detention practices. U.S. exporters and importers were hopeful, but we continued to suffer, as not one of the recommended reasonable practices was implemented by the carriers and terminals.

The carriers and terminals were ill-advised to ignore the commission’s rule. Now the commissioners are stepping forward, appearing united and determined to enforce compliance with the guidelines to achieve the purpose of the act “to promote the growth and development of U.S. exports through competitive and efficient ocean transportation.”

Commissioner Rebecca Dye continues her years of leadership, last week issuing Advice to the Trade asking exporters, importers, forwarders and truckers to submit examples of injurious treatment to facilitate further action. We fully intend to do so.

Then Commissioners Daniel Maffei and Carl Bentzel expressed unequivocal support for vigorous action, particularly supporting the needs of U.S. exporters. Commissioner Louis Sola also has endorsed Dye’s initiatives many times. Chairman Michael Khouri is certainly on board as well.

Shippers, forwarders and truckers now must respond to the Advice to the Trade and submit examples of behavior that is inconsistent with the guidelines and reasonable practices, such as booking cancellations and unfair demurrage and detention charges. Send them to the FMC’s Bureau of Enforcement: [email protected].

The commissioners are standing up for U.S. interests. Now we must support and advance their most welcome initiative.

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Peter Friedmann

Peter Friedmann is the executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, a Washington-based organization he founded more than 30 years ago to pursue favorable U.S. transportation policy among truck, rail, port and ocean carrier practices for the nation’s agricultural and forest products shippers.