A pair of ocean common carriers recently paid a total of $2.65 million in civil penalties and fines to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to resolve allegations of misconduct levied by the FMC’s Bureau of Enforcements, Investigations and Compliance.
In April, Ocean Network Express (ONE) signed an agreement with the FMC to resolve claims that the company violated U.S. laws by assessing detention charges — fees carriers impose on companies that take too long to return containers — on shippers when appointments were unavailable to return equipment. ONE paid a civil penalty of $1.7 million under the terms of the agreement which incorporated a new compromise provision that also forced the company to provide refunds and waivers to all shippers impacted by the alleged detention charges. Additionally, ONE stated that it is committed to complying with the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 which aims to promote the growth and development of U.S. exports through an efficient and competitive ocean transportation system.
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Meanwhile, the FMC announced that it had reached a separate agreement with Wan Hai Lines in a deal that will see the company pay $950,000 in civil penalties to address allegations that the business violated U.S. laws after it failed to enforce and observe reasonable practices regarding its charges related to empty container returns. Similarly to ONE, Wan Hai Lines was also forced to fully refund shippers impacted by the alleged detention charges while simultaneously taking preventative measures to ensure compliance with the Commission’s Interpretive Rule on Detention and Demurrage which ensures that organizations are not unfairly penalized for demurrage and detention practices due to circumstances outside of their control.
“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. I commend our Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations and Compliance for their efforts, which resulted in both meaningful civil penalties and relief for impacted shippers,” said Daniel B. Maffei, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.
In June 2022, Hapag Lloyd AG was forced to pay $2 million in fines to resolve similar allegations related to how the company assessed detention charges.
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