- The Federal Maritime Commission is seeking comments on a new notice of proposed rulemaking that aims to increase transparency of shipping transactions.
- The proposed rule would make six major changes to how carrier automated tariffs are governed. The shifts include removing carriers' ability to charge a fee to access their tariffs, and altering the definition of co-loading to apply to less-than-container loads.
- Comments on the rule are due June 9, 2022. The FMC specifically called for comments on co-loading and tariff access fees in its press release announcing the rule.
The FMC says the new rule would help "remove unnecessary roadblocks" to a "competitive and efficient ocean transportation system." More specifically, the rule suggests six steps to do so:
- "Remove the option for ocean common carriers to charge a fee to access their tariff;
- "Allow non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) to cross reference certain aspects of other carriers’ terms in their tariffs;
- "Clarify the ability for NVOCCs to reflect increases in certain charges passed-through by other entities without notice;
- "Update the definition of co-loading to apply only to less than container loads;
- "Require that documentation be annotated with the names of all NVOCCs involved in a shipping transaction;
- "Make other miscellaneous updates and clarifications to the regulation."
The FMC had given advanced notice it was considering this rule as of April 2021. After the notice, several stakeholders shared their views in June comments with the agency.
Some carriers have been charging fees for tariff access at an "exorbitant" level, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America said in its comments. "A limited number of carriers continue to charge tariff access fees that appear to be exorbitant and thus tend to discourage the public access to VOCC rates that the tariff publishing requirements are designed to encourage."
In contrast, the New York New Jersey Foreign Freight Forwarders & Brokers Association said, "the issue of paying or charging unreasonable fees does not exist for our membership." But the group does believe that there should be no charge "for information that is required by regulation to be publicly available," according to its June 2021 comments.
For others, excess charges are a problem that go beyond access fees.
"The entire ocean carrier/port operations/logistics puzzle needs to be reviewed," the Association of Food Industries said in its comments. "Importers and exporters are often hit with charges for things over which they have no control, with no way to appeal those costs."