American Shipper

NCBFAA welcomes FMC/TSA settlement

NCBFAA welcomes FMC/TSA settlement

   The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America has welcomed the settlement between the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission and the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement on practices of TSA carriers in the eastbound transpacific trade.

   “My initial reaction is fairly positive,” said Ed Greenberg, counsel to the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America. The association was one of two organizations of intermediaries that petitioned the FMC last year to investigate the alleged discriminatory practices by TSA carriers against non-vessel-operating common carriers.

   In its petition, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America had asked for the FMC “to put an end to discrimination against NVOCCs” and stop collective collusive practices, Greenberg said.   

      “The FMC seems to have taken the steps necessary to do that,” he added.

   On Thursday (Sept. 11), the FMC published on its web site at www.fmc.gov the contents of the 9-page settlement it has reached with the 14 carriers of the TSA and with other carrier members of so-called TSA-related “bridging agreements.”

   In particular, the settlement commits the TSA to remove the Indian Subcontinent from the scope of its agreement, refrain from agreeing on contractual guidelines that discriminate between NVOCCs and direct shippers or deal exclusively with NVOCCs, and remove the right of TSA to agree on capacity rationalization for a period of three years.

   Greenberg welcomed the provision of the settlement on the avoidance of capacity rationalization agreements between carriers, even though the NCBFAA “never asked anything like that” in its petition.

   The $1.35 million settlement payments faced by the TSA carrier group “are not enormous,” Greenberg said, adding that fines were not a main goal of the NCBFAA petition.

   “We were more concerned about structural changes,” he explained. He praised the FMC’s “strong and direct action” to ensure that ocean carriers change their past practices. Greenberg commented that the FMC has been responsive to the need to avoid a repeat of the problems faced by NVOCCs last year in the transpacific trade.

   “Will it work?” he asked. “I don’t know… It will need to be seen what happens,” he added.

   As part of the settlement, TSA carriers did not admit any unlawful conduct.

   The settlement was signed by:

— the FMC;

— the TSA carriers (APL, CMA CGM, COSCO Container Lines, Evergreen Marine Corp., Hanjin Shipping, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine, “K” Line, Maersk Sealand, MOL, NYK, Orient Overseas Container Line, P&O Nedlloyd and Yang Ming Marine); — and carriers that have cooperation agreements with the TSA (Hatsu Marine and Lloyd Triestino — two subsidiaries of the Evergreen group, Shipping Corporation of India, and Contship Containerlines, a unit of CP Ships).