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FMC chairman says lines should compensate shippers, truckers forced to store containers

After a meeting last week at the Port of New York and New Jersey, US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) chairman Daniel Maffei said: “When ocean carriers continue to bring thousands of containers per 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.

“The commission has already been investigating reports of carriers charging per diem container charges even when the shipper or trucker cannot possibly return the container due to terminal congestion. I will ask that this investigation be broadened and intensified to cover instances where shippers and truckers are being forced to store containers or move them without proper compensation.”

Maffei also said, “The commission will ask the carriers that have fallen the most behind in picking up their empties what their plan is to rectify the situation. Whatever their answers may be, I will do everything in my power to ensure that carriers do not receive involuntarily subsidized storage for empty containers that belong to them.

“If it can be shown that a shipper or a trucker is not allowed to return a container, then not only should they not be charged per diem but the carrier should compensate that trucker for the space it takes up. This is completely in line with the incentive principle set forth by the commission in its rules, in that it would promote the movement of cargo since chassis and space would be freed up by carriers taking full responsibility for the empty containers resulting from the increased volumes of import cargo they bring in.”

The Port of New York and New Jersey announced last week that it will implement a container imbalance fee for ocean carriers as part of its effort to handle record cargo volumes. The container management fee, effective as of September 1, will target empty containers that have been stored at the port for long periods.

Chairman Maffei and FMC managing director Lucille Marvin visited the port after receiving letters from the National Industrial Transportation League and the Bi-State Motor Carriers Association. Both groups had urged the commission to suspend demurrage and detention charges at the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Commenting on the US empty container news via LinkedIn, Lars Jensen, founder of liner consultancy Vespucci Maritime, said the issue was simple.

“When the supply chain delays are reduced, this effectively releases an added pool of empty containers into the system,” Jensen explained, observing that there were around 1m teu of empty containers on top of the normal flow which now needs to be moved out of North America.

“The problem pointed out here by the FMC chairman is going to get worse,” Jensen warned.

Credit Splash247 by Kim Biggar

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