The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission has sent requests to eight major global shipping lines to provide details on congestion and related surcharges they have implemented or announced.
The move comes in response to a complaint filed by U.S. furniture company MCS Industries with the FMC against the global container carriers for violating their contractual obligations.
Shipping lines have allegedly ignored their contractual obligations, refusing to provide agreed-upon container space in order to make exorbitant profits in the marketplace.
The Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement (BoE) has given ocean carriers until August 13, 2021, to provide details confirming that any surcharges were instituted correctly and in accordance with legal and regulatory obligations.
“In reviewing ocean carriers’ responses, the Commission will determine whether surcharges were implemented after adequate notice; whether the purpose of the surcharge was clearly defined; whether it is clear what event or condition triggers the surcharge; and whether it is clear what event or condition has been identified that would terminate the surcharge,” the release said.
The companies contacted are CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Matson, MSC, OOCL, SM Line and ZIM.
According to the FMC, each of the shipping lines has recently implemented or announced congestion surcharges.
Ocean carriers are subject to specific requirements regarding rate changes or rate increases, including providing 30 days’ notice to shippers and ensuring that published rates are clear and final.
“The COVID-related surge in import demand has driven freight rates to record highs,” said FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei.
“Now, we are hearing more and more reports of ocean carriers assessing additional new rates, such as ‘congestion surcharges,’ with little notice or explanation.”
“Congestion is primarily due to the tremendous volume of traffic coming in from ocean carriers and through the ports to meet record import demand.”
“As Chairman, I want to know the carriers’ justifications for the additional fees and I strongly support close scrutiny by the FMC’s Office of Enforcement aimed at stopping any instances where these additional fees may not fully comply with the law or regulation,” Maffei concluded.