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Updated Regulations Cut Shipper Fees

U.S. importers are getting help in their fight against large ocean-carrier fees, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription).  

What’s going on: “Picking up and dropping off a container on time was often impossible during the pandemic-fueled freight surge because of challenges from shortages of trucking equipment to boxes becoming buried among stacks in congested container yards.”

  • Throughout 2021 and the first half of 2022, companies often paid per-box late fees of anywhere from several hundred dollars to more than $10,000, in addition to high shipping rates.
  • The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, passed by Congress last summer, endorsed a Federal Maritime Commission rule holding that late fees should not be charged if a shipper is unable to move a container owing to situations such as bottlenecks.

Why it’s important: The new law, which authorized funding increases that have helped the FMC boost its oversight, “set up a new expedited claims process through the FMC that allows shippers to quickly challenge the charges, and it shifted the burden of proof onto carriers to show that fees are valid.”

  • The legislation further mandated new invoicing requirements and validation metrics to be met by ocean carriers when charging detention and demurrage fees.
  • Since the law’s passage, the FMC has gotten about 250 complaints under the expedited process. More than 80 qualified for review and led to refunds or waivers of nearly $800,000.

The NAM says: “Manufacturers ardently supported passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act and have remained vigilant in providing industry input to the Federal Maritime Commission as new rules and regulations have been proposed and finalized,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure Policy Ben Siegrist.

  • “We will continue to work with the agency to implement these vital regulatory updates that drive down shipping costs and enhance reliability in ocean shipping and connected intermodal networks.”
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