FMC chief vows focus on service contracts
U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky Jr. said he plans to “keep a focus on improving the service contract process.”
Speaking to members of the Global Shippers’ Forum on Monday, Lidinsky said, “service contracts need to be improved if they are to come close to the vision that Congress had for them when it passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in 1998.
“Recently, we have seen reports of some carriers attempting to impose early or multiple peak season surcharges before the ink was dry on annual service contracts. These episodes reveal that some treat the service contract as something more like ‘guidelines,’ ” he said in a wide-ranging talk to the group, which was meeting in Macau.
Lidinsky said the “heart” of a list of legislative proposals he submitted to Congressman Elijah Cummings, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, last month “is to reform the service contract dispute resolution process to allow more timely and inexpensive assistance from the Commission’s CADRS (Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services) office.
“I also proposed prohibiting unfair or deceptive practices in such areas as excessive cargo rolling, excessive booking cancellations, imposing surcharges, or refusing to accept third-party or “shipper-owned” containers. Finally, I proposed adding some visibility into the container leasing companies that according to some reports control more than 60 percent of the world’s container inventory,” he said.
At the same time, Lidinsky said the FMC has not taken a stand on the issue of carrier antitrust immunity, which he believes would be debated this fall.
Congressman James Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said earlier this year that he is preparing legislation that would end carriers’ antitrust immunity for conferences and rate discussion agreements such as the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) and the Westbound Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (WTSA).
“Because he recognizes that antitrust law alone will not solve the recent problems experienced by shippers, Congressman Oberstar has also proposed addressing excessive cargo rolling and booking cancellations, unfair or deceptive surcharges, and refusals to accept third-party containers,” Lidinsky added.
He said the FMC has increased oversight of the TSA and WTSA by ordering them to submit transcripts of their meetings.
He said the new transcript requirement would be in place when the groups meet in Seattle next week. ' Chris Dupin