The Federal Maritime Commission last week “unanimously voted to effectively allow the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma to move forward on a cooperative agreement to exchange information and work together to find synergies,” Commissioner William Doyle said Monday.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the Global Shippers Forum in Los Angeles, Doyle said the two ports are now “free to collect, share and discuss a wide range of issues regarding container terminal operations, including information on container facility planning and development, management and operational efficiencies.
“Competition is stiff between ports on the U.S. West Coast and the ports in Canada and Mexico. Our ports need to compete on an international level and keep providing good-paying jobs -- I hope this agreement helps the ports of Seattle and Tacoma figure out their best options for the future,” he said.
In his speech, Doyle highlighted recent compromise agreements settling allegations of Shipping Act violations with companies operating roll-on, roll-off ships, including CSAV, MOL and its affiliate, Nissan Motor Car Carrier Co., “K” Line and NYK.
He noted that since at least 2012, U.S., Canadian, Japanese and European antitrust authorities have been engaged in a global, coordinated price-fixing investigation of the ro/ro trades.
“On the civil litigation front, over 25 lawsuits have been filed in federal courts across the country against major ro/ro operators alleging that defendants conspired to fix, raise, maintain and stabilize the price of vehicle carrier services. In October 2013, the United States Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation began ordering consolidation of lawsuits into a multidistrict litigation (MDL). The purpose of an MDL is to centralize similar lawsuits to avoid duplicative efforts and increase the efficiency of the judicial process,” he said.
Doyle also said that the commission reached a compromise agreement the last week in February with Rickmers-Linie.
“Basically, Rickmers cooperated and voluntarily disclosed to the commission details relevant to its transportation activities and practices giving rise to alleged violations -- providing service in the trade that was not in accordance with rates, charges, classifications, rules and practices contained in a published tariff or filed service contract; accepted cargo from unlicensed and unbonded OTIs; and operated pursuant to an unfiled agreement."
Doyle said, “Rickmers has now brought its service-contracting practices into compliance with the Shipping Act and has conducted a comprehensive internal training program with regard to tariff publication and the carrier has taken steps to ensure it is not providing service to unlicensed, unbonded or unregistered entities.”