The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission on Wednesday announced a plan to engage with ocean carriers and marine terminal operators as part of a new initiative aimed at improving conditions at the nation’s major container ports.
Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye will convene six supply chain innovation teams, under her authority as the 29th research officer, that will be made up of executives from ocean carriers operating in alliances and marine terminal operators that serve them. The objective of the teams will be to identify and implement improvements in the process and timing of container turnaround and delivery at marine terminals.
The teams will focus on achieving two goals: carriers being able to return an empty container to a terminal and pick up a loaded container, commonly referred to as a “double move,” and the certainty and predictability of the earliest return date process to address exporters’ complaints about the unreliability of the timeline for getting cargo to a terminal. The FMC said the efforts will focus on the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the ports of New York and New Jersey.
The announcement of the initiative was made Tuesday during a Federal Maritime Commission meeting that featured open and closed briefings on topics related to container shipping market conditions, the current state of the ocean-linked supply chain, and the commercial and operational behavior of shipping lines.
“Achieving double movement for truckers would improve trucker productivity and eliminate a constant source of conflict over container turnaround, as well as solve problems with appointment systems and chassis shortages,” said Commissioner Dye. “Confusion over the earliest return date is a terrible problem for U.S. exporters. This reform would also eliminate the ongoing problem for U.S. agricultural exporters of demurrage and detention charges that do not comply with our interpretive rule.”
The FMC ordered Fact Finding No. 29 in March 2020 to investigate congestion and bottlenecks at ports and other points in the supply chain that pose a serious risk to the U.S. economy. As head of the investigation, Commissioner Dye is authorized to convene supply chain innovation teams and engage key stakeholders from across the freight industry to identify business solutions to some of the worst supply chain problems facing U.S. exporters, importers and truckers.
In July, Commissioner Dye presented the FMC with a set of eight interim fact-finding recommendations to address conditions that contribute to congestion and other inefficiencies in the ocean transportation system. This latest initiative has received the support of FMC Chairman Daniel B. Maffei.
“I fully support Commissioner Dye’s leadership in addressing these issues and applaud her continued efforts to use the Commission’s statutory authorities to improve conditions that contribute to inefficiencies in the nation’s maritime supply chain,” Chairman Maffei said.
The first meetings of the Supply Chain Innovation Teams will be held on December 1.
The FMC published its final interpretive rule on the reasonableness of detention and demurrage practices by ocean carriers and marine terminal operators in May 2020. In a letter last month from FMC Managing Director Lucille Marvin to ocean carriers, the FMC formally called for “rapid” industry adoption of commonly employed best practices that the Commission said would promote clarity and certainty on how and when detention and demurrage charges are assessed, as well as how to challenge disputed charges.
In the open session of Tuesday’s meeting, the FMC was briefed on U.S. macroeconomic indicators in general, and their associated impact on shipping, the state of U.S.-international maritime operations, vessel capacity, and pricing; privately, Commissioners were briefed on ocean carrier revenues and pricing, capacity, cancelled voyages, and port calls, during a closed session.