FMC’s Maffei takes tougher line on shipping companies

Daniel Maffei, chairman of the US Federal Maritime Commission, has proposed that shipping lines should compensate shippers and truck drivers who are forced to store containers because of port congestion.

After a meeting last week at the Port of New York and New Jersey, Maffei said that “when ocean carriers continue to bring thousands of containers per month to a port and only pick up a fraction of that number, it creates an untenable situation for terminals, importers and exporters, trucking companies, and the port itself. The Commission has already been investigating reports of carriers charging per diem container charges even when the shipper or trucker cannot possibly return the container due to terminal congestion. I will ask that this investigation be broadened and intensified to cover instances where shippers and truckers are being forced to store containers or move them without proper compensation.”

Maffei said that the FMC would ask the carriers that had fallen furthest behind in picking up “empties” what their plan was to rectify the situation. “Whatever their answers may be, I will do everything in my power to ensure that carriers do not receive involuntarily subsidized storage for empty containers that belong to them”, said Maffei.

Taking a strong line, Maffei said that if it could be shown that a shipper or a trucker was barred from returning a container, “then not only should they not be charged per diem but the carrier should compensate that trucker for the space it takes up”.

He said that this move would be in line with the incentive principle in the FMC’s rules, “in that it would promote the movement of cargo”.

Last week the Port of New York and New Jersey announced that it would be introducing a container imbalance fee for ocean carriers as part of its effort to handle record cargo volumes. Effective September 1st the fee will target empty containers that have been stored at the port for long periods.