US complaint against Hapag-Lloyd over D&D charging

US-based fruit juice importer and broker Rahal International has filed a complaint with the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) against Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd over what the complainant has said were unreasonable charging practices.

Rahal’s legal representatives are arguing that, between April and June 2022, Hapag-Lloyd at the port of New York and New Jersey “wrongfully and unreasonably” charged Rahal $298,911 for detention/demurrage for containers unremovable from the port.

Rahal alleges that the actions of Hapag-Lloyd were not compliant with the US Shipping Act and that they led to Rahal sustaining actual injuries and damages of at least $715,631. Rahal said that in addition to “unreasonable” charges it incurred $154,909 in further haulage fees and $63,013 for extra expenses, as well as a $198,798 loss for spoiled fruit products.

The importer also alleged that the Hamburg-based company had, at least one year before the events complained of, failed to provide adequate facilities at and about the port for its customers to return empty containers, but that it still continued to accept business.

“As a result of Hapag’s failure to establish reasonable practices regarding return of empty containers, Hapag had a backlog of empty containers building up in and about the port”, the complaint asserted.

The FMC has been dealing with a flood of a growing number of complaints filed by shippers against ocean carriers, many of which have alleged that various ocean carriers violated the Shipping Act of 1984 by failing to honour long-term contract prices – choosing instead to allocate any space on containerships to other parties that were willing to pay far higher spot rates. The carriers were also alleged to have charged unjustified demurrage fees. The way in which these detention charges were assessed had become a matter of significant controversy.