The Federal Maritime Commission is asking major shipping lines to provide information on how they will work to prevent retaliation against shippers, one of the provisions of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 signed into law earlier this year.
The top 20 shipping lines calling on the U.S. will be required to tell regulators how they are adapting to increased prohibitions on retaliatory and discriminatory behavior. The FMC is specifically focusing on how companies are training personnel and how employees are being made aware of the consequences for violating the law.
“The Ocean Shipping Reform Act made it clear that it is absolutely illegal for ocean carriers to discriminate or retaliate against a shipper for filing a complaint or challenging a charge,” Chairman Daniel B. Maffei said in a statement. “Even a simple verbal threat to a shipper from an ocean carrier employee could undermine U.S. law and will not be tolerated.”
The FMC examination started the week of Dec. 15, and ocean carriers have until mid-January to provide responses. Section 5 of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act prohibits a carrier, terminal operator or ocean transportation intermediary from retaliating against a shipper by refusing or threatening to refuse otherwise-available cargo space.
Correspondence was sent to carriers through their designated compliance officer. Carriers voluntarily agreed to designate a compliance officer who directly reports to a senior executive responsible for business in the U.S. as part of an investigation into ocean carrier practices in the wake of the pandemic.
Retaliation will also be discussed with the 11 largest ocean carriers during the FMC’s next round of meetings through its vessel-operating common carrier audit program, which gives regulators more access to shipping lines to directly resolve issues of concern.