FMC’s Dye suggests caution on reforms
Federal Maritime Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye said while she supports moving “forward on the deregulatory path, I think it is unwise to implement major reform in the U.S. system of ocean transportation regulation under current economic conditions.”
Dye prefaced her speech before members of the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America that she was expressing her own views and not speaking for the FMC. She said the commission is collecting information for a study of the impact of the European Union’s repeal of its liner conference bloc exemption in October 2008.
The study will cover five years through 2010, and the FMC would be mindful that “the global economic downturn creates substantial challenges for any effort to isolate the effects of the EU's elimination of the conference exemption from broader economic trends,” she said.
However the EU “ultimately decides to treat the international liner industry, I expect the U.S. will continue to rely on certain aspects of our current ocean regulatory system,” saying it was comprehensive and “includes not only antitrust immunity for vessel operators, but also for marine terminals, and certain port authorities.”
Antitrust immunity is offset in the Shipping Act by the 'prohibited acts' contained in the act, she noted.
Dye last month was named the fact-finding officer to head up an investigation into conditions and practices in the U.S. liner trades, and into potential impediments to trade. These include issues such as lack of capacity on ships and availability of containers for U.S. imports and exports.
Last week she held hearings in San Francisco and Portland, Ore., to take testimony from shippers and other groups concerned with the issue, and she planned to take testimony in San Antonio, Texas, Wednesday from NCBFAA members where the group is holding its annual conference.
Dye noted that in February the FMC began a rulemaking in response to a petition filed by the NCBFAA asking non-vessel-operating common carriers be exempted from the Shipping Act provision requiring NVOs to publish and adhere to rate tariffs when they have individually negotiated rates with its shipping customers.
“Given what appears to be the lack of practical usefulness of the current tariff system, I believe it is time to revisit the traditional notion of tariff filing and enforcement,” she said. “Over 90 percent, and in some trades 95 percent, of freight carried to and from the United States is currently under contract,” she said. “According to comments filed with the commission, this action could save many NVOCC businesses up to $200,000 per year.”
She told NCBFAA members that after the proposed rule is published, the FMC looked forward to receiving their comments about the scope of the proposed rule and views on the proposed conditions. ' Chris Dupin