Federal Maritime Commissioners Carl W. Bentzel and Max M. Vekich have written key Members of Congress to urge changing the law in a way that would allow the FMC to prohibit agreements filed with the commission by ocean carriers and terminal operators from automatically going into effect.
“Congress provided the Commission with important additional authorities in the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022, but there is more that can be done to assist U.S. shippers,” said Commissioner Vekich. “Commissioner Bentzel and I strongly believe that modifying the process by which the Commission reviews agreements under 46 U.S.C. § 41307(b) would substantially strengthen the Commission’s oversight of potentially anti-competitive agreements. Such modifications would complement the extensive monitoring process applicable to the major shipping alliance agreements.”
Currently, the FMC on its own cannot stop an agreement from going into effect, even though the Commission, as the expert independent regulatory agency, determines it to be unreasonably anti-competitive. The Commission must file an action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and persuade the court to issue an injunction.
CUMBERSOME AND TIME-CONSUMING
“We believe the Commission should have the authority to disapprove agreements between or among ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators. Experience has shown that this process is cumbersome and time-consuming, and some would even argue that it is designed to impede the Commission’s oversight of agreements,” said Commissioner Bentzel.
“Key statutory changes to the agreement review process would greatly enhance the Commission’s oversight of the competitive aspects of the maritime industry and ensure that we are able to implement the intended purposes of OSRA 2022,” said Commissioner Vekich.
Letters were sent to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; the Subcommittee on Surface Transportation, Maritime, Freight, and Ports; and the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
Commissioners Bentzel and Vekich note that their thoughts and comments do not necessarily represent the position of the Federal Maritime Commission as a body.