WSC asks FMC for more time to respond to NVO contracting issue
The World Shipping Council has asked the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission to give it until Sept. 30 to respond to the unified position on contracting freedom for non-vessel-operating common carriers that was proposed Aug. 2 by leading NVOs and the National Industrial Transportation League.
The request for an extension beyond the normal two-week time period came in an Aug. 17 filing with the FMC. The WSC, which represents 40 international ocean carriers, said its board of directors and general membership are scheduled to meet in mid-September. It said a decision by the agency to set a Sept. 30 response deadline will allow time for the development of meaningful comments and is consistent with the NVO and shipper request for prompt consideration of their reform plan.
'Given the immediacy of the relief requested and the fact that the relief currently requested has not previously been proposed in this form, WSC believes that it is appropriate for the commission to allow interested parties a reasonable amount of time to reply to the substance' of the unified proposal, the WSC said.
The ocean carrier group said it's up to the FMC to choose the proper procedural mechanism, such as action on a petition, rulemaking or adjudication, for ultimately addressing the issues raised in the unified plan and the contracting and tariff reform petitions that NVOs filed individually in 2003 and 2004.
The WSC said the Aug. 2 joint submission from NVOs and shippers presented the FMC with 'a simplified and unified request for relief that has been distilled from the disparate requests' in the individual petitions. 'One of the council's primary concerns with the petitions as originally filed was that they requested many different and often inconsistent forms of relief,' the WSC said. The Aug. 2 proposal narrows and more clearly defines the issues for the record, it said.
In addition to the NIT League, supporters of the unified plan on NVO contracting reform include UPS, FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage, the Transportation Intermediaries Association, BAX Global, BDP International and C.H. Robinson Worldwide.
The unified group has called on the FMC to swiftly adapt regulations to allow NVOs to enter confidential rate and service agreements with shippers, a private business arrangement that the 1998 Ocean Shipping Reform Act reserved exclusively for vessel operators. The confidential ocean transportation agreements between NVOs and shippers would have to be filed with the FMC, just as vessel operators file service contracts with the agency.
The unified plan calls for the agency to grant all NVOs a conditional exemption from tariff publication for cargo that an NVO moves under a customized written agreement with a shipper.
Petitions seeking NVO contracting liberalization and relief from tariff filing requirements had been filed individually at the FMC in 2003 and 2004 by UPS, FedEx Trade Networks Transport & Brokerage, C.H. Robinson, Danzas, BDP, Ocean World Lines and the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America.