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FMC Extends Comment Period For Container Availability Rule

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The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission said it has extended the deadline for submitting public comments on a proposed interpretive rule addressing demurrage and detention practices under the Shipping Act to Oct. 31.

The agency had originally requested that industry comments be submitted by Oct. 17.

As previously reported by American Shipper, the Washington, D.C.-based Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC) requested the two-week extension for exporters and importers to file comments regarding the notice of proposed interpretive rule to the FMC.

"We are encouraged that the commission recognizes the importance and impact of these proceedings, which they need to effectively address," said AgTC Executive Director Peter Friedmann in an interview. "It's a major burden on U.S. exporters and importers."

On Sept. 13, the FMC published on its website the notice of proposed interpretive rulemaking to address future demurrage and detention disputes brought before the commission by the container shipping industry.

"While the commission will provide confidential treatment for identified confidential information to the extent allowed by law, comments are considered to be part of the public record," the FMC said.

Demurrage pertains to the time an import container sits in a container terminal, with carriers responsible for collecting penalties on behalf of the marine terminals. Detention relates to shippers holding containers for too long outside the marine terminals.

Many shippers view the $150 to $300 demurrage and detention fees assessed upon them by the ocean container carriers and marine terminals as unfair, particularly when they are unable to pick up or drop off containers due to operational problems at the terminals that are outside their control.

The AgTC highlighted a Sept. 18 customer advisory from CMA CGM (America) stating the carrier will assess "an administrative fee of $50 for each per diem/daily usage charge invoice." AgTC members immediately contacted CGM CMA (America) in protest, Friedmann said. The fee was rescinded by the carrier the next day.

In December 2016, the Coalition for Fair Port Practices filed a petition with the FMC, requesting regulatory action against unfair demurrage and detention fee assessments, which was followed by public hearings at the commission in early 2018.

The FMC approved the initiation of the Fact Finding 28 investigation in the spring of 2018 and put Commissioner Rebecca Dye in charge. The commission unanimously approved Dye's final container availability recommendations on Sept. 6, which was followed by the publication of the notice of proposed interpretive rule.

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