Federal Maritime Commission Must Deal With Labor-Related “Difficulties”
June 26, 2014
In a recent letter to Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Mario Cordero, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) asked the FMC to consider procedures addressing port disruptions resulting from unusual occurrences such as major force majeure events or labor-related difficulties.
Early last year the NCBFAA requested that Chairman Cordero’s predecessor, Richard Lidinsky, likewise consider procedures to mitigate challenges during maritime labor unrest and severe weather conditions.
Motivated by the possibility of a strike at west coast ports commencing in the near future, the NCBFAA determined to once again petition the FMC for action on this issue. John Martin, principal of port consultant Martin Associates, told Supply Chain Management Review that broker’s concern are understandable.
“When the West Coast was shut down twelve years ago, freight intermediaries were scrambling to find alternative routes and modes. It was a major challenge for all concerned.”
As regards the specific procedures, the NCBFAA recommends that the Commission:
• Require carriers to develop and publicize their contingency plans concerning how they would provide service for cargoes moving into or out of the various U.S. ports during periods of unusual disruption events.
• Require carriers and marine terminal operators to amend their demurrage and detention tariffs to exclude any penalty portion of those charges from being assessed during the pendency of those events.
• Create internal clearing house for information relating to the timing and amounts of congestion-related surcharges that would be available to the public on the FMC’s website.
“We are aware that the Commission did recently issue an advisory to the industry concerning the possibility of port congestion surcharges and when any cargo would be affected by such surcharges,” the letter noted. However, carrier provided tariff publications and announcements in this regard to date have been “so indefinite as to be inconsistent with the Commission’s regulations pertaining to the need to provide the public with accurate, reliable and useful information concerning the charges to be assessed.”
In closing, the NCBFAA noted that it “would be willing to work with the Commission, the carriers and any other parties to address the issues raised above.”
The Association reiterated its willingness to discuss this further and answer any questions the Chairman might have.
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