US Ag Container Shippers Feeling Abandoned, Ask FMC for Help

Many agricultural exporters have experienced a decline in the ocean container shipping service as carriers have given priority to the surging Asian imports to U.S. ports. This triage has left many would-be agricultural exports from the United States stranded. (DTN photo by Mary Kennedy)

Since early October, shipments of agricultural products by containers were discontinued by the major shipping line Hapag-Lloyd, a German international shipping and transportation company. I wrote a column highlighting the hardships this would cause for shippers, and since then, not much has improved. Read that article here:….

Many agricultural exporters have requested official action from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate denied and canceled container bookings among other serious issues still causing them difficulties to ship ag commodities. In response to letters from the agricultural export community and USDA, FMC expanded its investigation into whether carriers in alliances that call on the ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles, New York and/or New Jersey are violating federal regulations, USDA noted in its Dec. 3 Grain Transportation Report. Practices under investigation for possible violations concern demurrage and detention, container return, container availability for U.S. export cargoes and other related problems.

On Nov. 19, the FMC approved a supplemental order that expands the authority of Fact Finding 29, “International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement.” The supplemental order authorizes Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, as the designated fact-finding officer, to investigate ocean carriers operating in alliances and calling the Port of Long Beach, the Port of Los Angeles or the Port of New York and New Jersey. The expanded commission investigation will seek to determine if the policies and practices of those shipping companies related to detention and demurrage, container return and container availability for U.S. export cargoes violate 46 U.S.C. 41102(c).…

In a news release on Nov. 20, Commissioner Dye made the following statement in response to the commission’s supplemental order: “The time has come to resolve the most serious impediments to port performance. I’d like to thank my fellow commissioners for their support of the supplemental order for Fact Finding 29, as I focus the investigation on the extreme conditions in the Ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and New York/New Jersey. The Order emphasizes I, as Fact-Finding Officer, have all enforcement options at my disposal to address the crisis that exists in our major port gateways.

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