Pollution plans “center stage” at FMC
Pollution plans “center stage” at FMC
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission intends to expeditiously complete its review of the Clean Air Action Plans of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, said Commissioner Harold J. Creel, noting “because of their size and influence, the San Pedro ports’ approach could well establish a broader precedent.
“Issues concerning the public health consequences of port-related air pollution — and the economics of the port drayage industry — have found their way to center stage at the commission” and are “attracting attention at ports all across the country,” Creel said in a talk at the South Carolina International Trade Conference in Charleston on Wednesday. “We need to review agreements conscientiously, but we have no interest in unnecessary delays.”
While the two Southern California ports have shared research and joint planning, they “have elected to pursue dramatically different approaches to dealing with port drayage,” he noted, with Los Angeles establish drayage concessions limited to a relatively small number of licensed motor carriers that agree to phase in a mandated employee-only driver workforce, while Long Beach has concluded that an employee mandate is unnecessary.”
“Although there may be strong agreement on the health benefits of their common environmental goals and emissions standards, the ’employee mandate’ remains somewhat problematic,” Creel said.
He also noted there are significant differences with respect to initial application fees, with Long Beach charging $250 per licensed motor carrier while Los Angeles is requiring a $2,500 fee.
“I mention the significant differences mainly to illustrate the challenges that the commission will be facing when it reviews the two clean truck programs,” he said. “And I hasten to add that that review has not yet occurred. We have been closely following the progress of the ports’ collaborative work these many months, but have been waiting for them to finish the process of developing and approving the programs’ key elements.”
The FMC is not “merely a group of bureaucrats interested in making sure everyone jumps through the required hoops. Quite the contrary. The commission has a statutory responsibility to review agreements filed with us to ensure that they will not likely give rise to significantly anticompetitive conduct — that is, produce an unreasonable increase in transportation costs or reduction in service.”
“We also have a responsibility to ensure that common carriers, intermediaries, and marine terminal operators — including public ports — do not establish unreasonable regulations and practices. These are important protections for the shipping public. We take them very seriously,” he added.
Creel praised efforts by the South Carolina State Ports Authority and the Department of Health and Environmental Control to reduce truck idling, retire dirty equipment; purchase cleaner engines, and use cleaner ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel at port facilities.
Creel also said he expected minimal changes in the United States when the liner bloc exemption in Europe is removed in October 2008 on the shipping industry.
“Even though the Trans-Atlantic Conference Agreement (TACA) is nominally a traditional rate-setting conference, that designation is largely a legal fiction,” he said, noting that under Ocean Shipping Reform Act for the past decade carriers have been offering confidential service contracting.
“There may be some minor impact on carrier surcharges — but we’ll have to wait and see,” he said. “Practically speaking, the impact of Europe ending its liner block exemption likely will show up mainly in the Europe/Asia trades and possibly the Africa trades — if anywhere.”
He said what will be more important is what happens when the European Commission reviews the exemptions for alliances and vessel-sharing agreements in 2010.
“These operational agreements — as opposed to rate-setting conferences — tend to enhance efficiency, restrain carrier consolidation, and extend available services,” he noted. “In short, they are the sorts of agreements even shipper organizations support.”
He said the commission shared a call by the major shippers group, the National Industrial Transportation League, that the federal government “undertake a broad-based, independent review of Shipping Act immunity, and, in particular, an analysis of the impact that the changes in Europe will have on the shipment of goods in U.S. liner trades.”
“I’m pleased to say that the commission’s staff is already at work outlining how such an analysis will be conducted,” he said. ' Chris Dupin