Carriers Ocean Network Express and Wan Hai Lines were fined a combined $2.65 million for unreasonable pricing practices related to demurrage and empty container returns, the Federal Maritime Commission said last week.
The agency found both carriers violated terms of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022. In addition to the fines, both carriers will issue refunds to impacted shippers.
ONE agreed to pay $1.7 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations it assessed detention charges even when no appointments were available for shippers to return equipment. The carrier will additionally “furnish restitution to impacted shippers in the form of refunds and waivers,” according to the FMC statement.
Meanwhile, Wan Hai Lines agreed to pay $950,000 over allegations it failed to enforce reasonable pricing practices around empty container returns. The company has implemented corrective action and refunded impacted shippers all detention charges collected under the invoices at issue.
Both ONE and Wan Hai Lines did not admit to any violation of the law, the FMC said.
“The agreements being announced today send a clear message to international shipping community that ocean carriers must fully comply with the U.S. legal obligations," Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Daniel B. Maffei said in a statement. "I commend our Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance for their efforts, which resulted in both meaningful civil penalties, and relief for impacted shippers.”
The announced fines come as the FMC ramps up investigations into the shipping industry. Since OSRA was signed, the agency has received over 280 complaints and expects more to come.
Other carriers have become caught up in complaints and settlements. In a recent complaint shared by the FMC in May, CertiFit alleges Evergreen Shipping refused to honor its service contract during the pandemic, saying it “failed to provide space at a contracted rate.”
The two overseas carriers weren't the only ones who've stepped forward with settlement agreements. In June of last year, Hapag-Lloyd paid $2 million in civil penalties related to their detention and demurrage practices.