FMC takes steps to clear congestion at US ports

FMC takes action against US congestion

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has stepped up efforts to alleviate the congestion at some US container ports by demanding information from carriers and marine terminal operators (MTOs) to determine if legal obligations related to detention and demurrage practices are being met.

In a statement, the FMC said orders related to its Fact Finding 29 ‘International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement’ investigation. They have been issued on the instructions of Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye.

Specific targets of the orders will be carriers operating in alliance and calling at the Port of Los Angeles, the Port of Long Beach and/or the Port of New York/New Jersey. Marine terminal operators will also be subject.

The demand orders will require carriers and MTOs to provide information on their policies and practices related to the return of containers and container availability for exporters.

“Failure of carriers and MTOs to operate in a way consistent with the Interpretive Rule on Detention and Demurrage that became effective on May 18, 2020, might constitute a violation of 46 USC 41102(c) which prohibits unjust and unreasonable practices and regulations related to, or connected with, receiving, handling, storing, or delivering property,” the FMC said.

The action has been taken after some of the US’ most important gateways, particularly the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, have become highly congested after exports from China resumed in the second half of 2020.

The waiting time for vessels to call at these ports almost tripled in January and some industry experts have warned the surge in traffic will not relent until the Summer and the US should receive record-breaking amounts of imports every month in the first half of 2021.  

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