Source: Ralf Gosch/Shutterstock The Coalition for Port Practices filed a petition with the FMC in December, asking the agency to address fees imposed when shippers can’t pick-up and return cargo, containers and chassis for reasons beyond their control.
The petition was filed by the Coalition for Fair Port Practices, a group of 25 members that represent shippers, receivers, motor carriers, port draymen, freight forwarders, third-party logistics companies and customs brokers.
The FMC has invited comments to be submitted by Feb. 28, and has been posting them on the docket website.
Companies supporting the petition include: Unipac Shipping Inc., Mersant International, and B&H Customs Services, all of which are located in New York City; EWC Global Logistics of Rockville Center, N.Y.; Charlotte Customhouse Brokers Inc. of Davidson, N.C.; John A. Steer Co. of Philadelphia; Pride International of Baltimore; Western Overseas Corp. of Long Beach, Calif.; John S. James Co. of Savannah, Ga.; Eur-A-Med Shipping Ltd. of Charleston, S.C.; and the American Cotton Shippers Association (ACSA) of Memphis, Tenn.
ACSA President and CEO William May said the policy statement requested by the coalition in December “would help bring about more reasonable demurrage and detention practices for cargo moving through our nation’s seaports.”
He said, “Our members have experienced repeated incidents of severe congestion at container terminals in ports on both the West Coast and East Coast in different crop marketing years, which have prevented our members from delivery of their cargo to the terminal."
In addition, May noted how the cotton they are trying to bring to terminals often originates far away in the interior of the country. “As merchants, our members bear all commercial risks from the point an export sale is concluded," he said. "Any unanticipated costs cannot be passed along to foreign customers and directly affect the viability of member firms.”
Meanwhile, Paxton International Vice President Shannon Viveiros wrote, “It is clear that some carriers and terminals have used the unfortunate circumstances that unfolded after the Hanjin bankruptcy, the West Coast labor disputes, and other disruptive events. There are vast inconsistencies in the conduct of carriers and terminals with respect to free time, demurrage and detention practices as well as a lack of clarity in regards to what constitutes reasonable practices” under the Shipping Act, which is found in U.S. Code Section 41102(c).
That section says, “A common carrier, marine terminal operator, or ocean transportation intermediary may not fail to establish, observe, and enforce just and reasonable regulations and practices relating to or connected with receiving, handling, storing or delivering property.”
EWC President Patrick Caulfield said, “The existing system of arguing with the carriers or ports over the propriety of receiving demurrage or detention bills in these circumstances or, if the carrier or ports refuse to listen, in challenging the bills at the Commission, even with the assistance of the Consumer Affairs Dispute Resolution Service, is consuming and unwieldy.
“For that reason, we believe the Commission should consider adopting a policy or rule, as proposed by the Coalition, that makes it clear that it would be inappropriate for the carriers and MTOs to assess demurrage and detention charges in situations where the delays are clearly beyond the control or fault of the OTIs and their customers," he added.