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FMC to assess whether container lines are abusing market power

9 foreign shipping lines targeted in audit to gauge compliance with detention and demurrage rules

Carriers will be audited on demurrage and detention practices. (Photo: Port of Los Angeles)

The Federal Maritime Commission plans to audit nine of the largest container carriers operating in U.S. markets to find out if they are using their market power to overcharge shippers on detention and demurrage fees.

The Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit Program, launched on Monday by FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei, will also “provide additional information beneficial to the regular monitoring of the marketplace for ocean cargo services,” according to the agency.

The top nine carriers by market share included in the audit are Maersk, MSC, CMA CGM, COSCO Group, Hapag-Lloyd, ONE, Evergreen, HMM and Yang Ming.

“The Federal Maritime Commission is committed to making certain the law is followed and that shippers do not suffer from unfair disadvantages,” Maffei commented, noting that his audit team will work to enhance dialogue with carriers on supply chain challenges.

“Of course, if the audit team uncovers prohibited activities, the Commission will take appropriate action. Furthermore, the information gathered by the audit process might lead to changes in FMC regulations and industry guidance if warranted,” Maffei said.

The audit program comes just a week after the FMC announced an agreement with the Department of Justice to boost the economic oversight of foreign carriers serving in the U.S. international container trades, following an executive order issued by the White House aimed at reining in what it considers to be excessive market power by the ocean carriers.

The carriers involved in the audit will be analyzed for compliance with FMC regulations as they apply to detention and demurrage practices in the U.S. Each will be audited “irrespective of whether a formal or informal complaint has been filed at the Commission,” FMC stated. “The Commission will work with companies to address their application of the rule and clarify any questions or ambiguities. Information supplied by carriers may be used to establish industry best practices.”

FMC Managing Director Lucille Marvin will lead the audit program, the agency noted, which will be made up initially of current FMC employees. The audit will begin with an information request establishing a database of quarterly reports allowing the Commission to assess how detention and demurrage is administered. Responses will be followed by individual interviews with the carriers.

Aside from detention and demurrage, the audit may include carrier practices related to billing, appeals procedures, penalties assessed and any other restrictive practices, according to the FMC.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. Nancy Allen

    Finally!!! Reading this article today made my day. I’ve been saying this for months, these SSL are getting away with it. How and why??? I run a pop and mom trucking company in Houston. We the trucker doing our very best to get goods pulled and deliver. With ports congestion, lack of chassis it’s nearly impossible. Customers are paying lots of $$$$ to these SSL to get their equipment release on a timely manner, they release the container at 1700 hours leaving us the truckers a 30 min window to pull it out. This is insane!!! I have never seen or experienced anything like this in my 22 years in this industry. My fear is shippers are not going to ship anything, who can afford it??? The cost of shipping a container overseas has gone up 142 % and run the risk of it not getting pulled out in time more $$$$!!! Scary!!!

  2. Jordan Brandel

    I was recently a victim of MSC and their abuse in the port of Houston on a container containing my Household goods. This carrier accepts Door to Door bookings knowingly that they don’t have truckers available to make the door delivery yet they have no problems billing detention and demurrage charges even when my container’s customs cleared the very same day it got to port. Because of my experience and contacts in the shipping industry I was able to coordinate transport with a private trucker otherwise all of my family’s belongings would still be stuck in Houston port generating more charges. Besides a $1500 detention and demurrage invoice, MSC charged me $540 for changing the final destination to port. I can’t imagine what these carriers do with people who have no understanding of how the shipping industry works.

  3. Quinten Arnaldy

    48/53 (CDL) AUDIT (50) STATE

  4. Shawn

    BETTER LATE THAN NEVER! while they’re at it, the ILWU needs to be investigated as well; especially in regards to the ports of LA and Long Beach! As a port driver, I’m seeing first hand throughout this whole thing that they’re not taking my time nor the vessels time seriously; they never have. The only true way that the backlog can be addressed is if these ports go completely automated. The End.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.