The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is well-aware of the issue of export container availability. Over the last several weeks it has been extremely problematic for ag exporters to get their products shipped out of U.S. ports. The increased amount of trade traffic coming from Asia has put an even higher premium on the value of shipping containers. During the virtual Global Maritime Conference, FMC Chairman Michael A. Khouri explained that the issue is being taken very seriously.
“Some ocean carriers – not all – have stated that they will no longer deploy – that is – reposition, empty containers to the U.S. interior agricultural areas. Instead, they are expediting empties back to Asia. This abandonment of a significant U.S. export industry – the American agricultural industry – is shutting them out of global markets,” said Chairman Khouri. “We are looking into all potential – I repeat – all potential responsive actions, including a review of whether such ocean carriers’ actions are in full compliance with the Shipping Act and more specifically the various “Prohibited Acts” sections of the Act.”
FMC recently approved an investigation to be conducted on the matter. An FMC Fact Finding Officer will be looking into export practices of ocean carriers operating in the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, and New Jersey. Along with container availability challenges, FMC will also be looking into detention and demurrage fee practices. The investigation and any responsive actions taken as a result are in line with the core mission of the FMC.
“Congress charged the FMC with responsibility to ensure competitive and efficient ocean transportation services for the shipping public and to protect the public from unfair and deceptive practices,” Chairman Khouri noted. “We will continue to look for opportunities to utilize collaborative cross-discipline teams to facilitate cooperative solutions to bottlenecks and friction points in the supply chain…we will continuously pursue our goal of ensuring competition and integrity in America’s ocean supply chain.”