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FMC to launch investigation into carriers' role in congestion


THE US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), announced an investigation into carriers' role in congestion at the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, New York, and New Jersey.

Commissioners Carl Bentzel and Daniel Maffei expressed their concern with reports that carriers were refusing to receive export bookings, and that high import demand was causing operational challenges.

"We want to stress the point that in responding to import cargo challenges, ocean carriers should not lose sight of their common carriage obligations to provide service to US exporters," said the commissioners.

"As our ports experience unprecedented cargo surges, it is imperative that we strive for a balanced trade to keep our supply chain fully effective and efficient while maintaining vital export opportunities for the US agriculture and manufacturing bases," said the commissioners.

Some carriers are refusing export bookings so they can ship empty containers back to Asia faster to be refilled with higher-paying US imports from Asia.

"The fundamental driver here is the enormous, record-breaking consumer demand in the US [and in other developed economies], which has to be satisfied. So, the equipment crunch is a symptom, not a cause," said World Shipping Council (WSC) CEO John Butler.

The Shipping Act of 1984 forbid carriers from unreasonably refusing to deal or negotiate, and that two or more carriers can't agree to boycott a shipper.

"Although we are very concerned about reports of refusals to provide service to our export community, we would be remiss in not acknowledging the extraordinary challenges caused to the supply chain because of Covid-19," said the commissioners.

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