FMC says it will engage with carriers, terminal operators, for container returns

The US Federal Maritime Commission announced on Wednesday November 17th that it intended to engage with ocean carriers and marine terminal operators with the aim of improving the process and timing of return and delivery of containers to marine terminals.

The FMC’s Fact Finding 29 will convene a number of teams by Commissioner Rebecca F Dye. They will comprise executives from ocean carriers operating in alliances and marine terminal operators that serve them.

Two goals will be the focus: for lorry drivers to be able to return an empty container to a terminal and pick up a loaded container in a single sweep (a “double move”) and the achievement of predictability as to the earliest return date process.

Exporters have complained about the unreliability of the deadline for getting cargo to a terminal. The FMC said efforts would be focused on the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and New York and New Jersey.

Commissioner Dye, convenor for Fact Finding 29, said that “achieving double moves for truckers would improve trucker productivity and remove a constant source of conflict over container return as well as resolve problems with appointment systems and chassis shortages.”

Dye added that “earliest return date confusion is a terrible problem for US exporters. This reform would also remove the constant problem to US agricultural exporters of demurrage and detention charges that are not in compliance with our interpretative rule.”

Fact Finding No 29 is not a hurried response to current problems with containers at various US ports. It was first announced in March 2020 to investigate congestion and bottlenecks at ports and other points in the supply chain that were seen as posing a serious risk to the US economy.

By July this year Commissioner Dye presented to the FMC a set of eight Interim Recommendations from the Fact Finding investigation meant to address conditions contributing to congestion and other inefficiencies in the ocean freight system.

The first meetings of the Supply Chain Innovation Teams will be held on December 1st.