The head of the Federal Maritime Commission is warning ocean carriers serving the Port of New York and New Jersey to stop forcing shippers and drayage truckers to store their containers — and pay for them when they do.
FMC President Dan Maffei is pressing carriers following a meeting with truckers and marine terminal operators at the port on Wednesday.
“The [FMC] has already investigated reports of carriers charging container fees per diem even when the shipper or trucker may not be able to return the container due to terminal congestion,” Maffei said in a statement released Thursday. “I will ask that this investigation be broadened and intensified to cover cases where shippers and truckers are forced to store containers or move them without proper compensation.”
Last week, the National Industrial Transportation League and the Bi-State Motor Carriers Association urged the FMC to suspend demurrage and port detention as congestion worsens amid increased import volumes. Maffei and the agency’s Acting Office of Enforcement, Investigations and Compliance Director Lucille Marvin followed up with a visit to the port to see the conditions firsthand.
“When ocean carriers continue to bring thousands of containers a 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,” Maffei said.
Carriers furthest behind in picking up their empty containers will be asked for a catch-up plan.
“Regardless of their responses, I will do everything in my power to ensure carriers do not receive unwittingly subsidized storage for empty containers that belong to them,” Maffei said. “If it can be shown that a shipper or trucker is not allowed to return a container, not only should they not be charged per day, but the carrier should compensate that trucker for the space they to keep busy.”
Maffei defended the tougher stance against ocean carriers as being in line with its demurrage and detention rules, as it favors the movement of goods “since chassis and space would be released by carriers taking full responsibility for containers. empties resulting from increased import volumes cargo they bring.
As record-breaking container ship queues threaten to ground ports across the country ahead of the peak fall season, the Port of New and New Jersey said on Tuesday it will charge shipping carriers a fee $100 per container on long term imports. or export containers, with the aim of freeing up space and improving the balance between imports and exports. The new tariff is in effect from September pending a mandatory 30-day federal notice.
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