FMC and DoJ cooperate on oversight of shipping lines

Aerial view of cargo ship in transit.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) Antitrust Division have signed an interagency Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to increase cooperation on oversight of the ocean liner shipping industry.  

FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei and Acting Assistant Attorney General Richard Powers signed the first-ever MOU between the two agencies on 12 July.

The MOU comes in succession to the executive order addressing competition issued 9 July by President Biden.

The MOU establishes a framework for the FMC and the Antitrust Division to continue regular discussions and review law enforcement and regulatory matters affecting competition in the shipping industry. 

The announcement comes as container shipping liner profits are set to surpass a staggering $100 billion in 2021 despite continued operational disruption to ports and the global supply chain, according to Drewry Shipping Consultants.

On 8 July, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the index price to ship one container has risen by eight times, adding that shipping container companies have charged companies “massive” fees whilst goods stall at ports.

The MOU also provides for information and expertise exchanges between the agencies that may be relevant and useful in meeting their oversight and enforcement responsibilities.

Each agency will designate a primary contact person to facilitate communications between and among attorneys, economists, and technical experts of the agencies, the MOU said.

The agencies will confer at least once annually to discuss and review law enforcement, regulatory, and other matters related to competitive conditions in the shipping industry.

Maffei commented, “The FMC has an important enforcement role as an economic regulator of a vital industry. As such, we will continually assess how the agency can improve its capacity to protect the integrity of the marketplace.  

“This memorandum between the Commission and the DoJ supplements and strengthens the FMC’s ability to detect, address, and pursue violations of the law or anticompetitive behaviour by those we regulate.”

Powers added, “Collaboration between the Antitrust Division and the FMC is important to ensuring healthy competition in the maritime industry.

“Our partnership with the FMC is one of the many ways in which the Antitrust Division is prepared to play its role in achieving the competition objectives of the President’s Competition Executive Order.”

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