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Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky Jr. has suggested changes in the Shipping Act to allow the agency to resolve disputes between ocean carriers and shippers. Lidinsky and Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye met with the House Transportation Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation for a progress report on Dye's fact-finding mission into equipment and vessel capacity shortages that have impaired U.S. exports.
Lidinsky admitted that the law does not give the FMC the authority to order more ships into U.S. trades to alleviate capacity shortages. Instead he proposed additional authority that would give the FMC the authority to mediate service contract disputes through the Office of Consumer Affairs. He said contract disputes typically go to court, but FMC mediation would be a quicker way to resolve problems.
The FMC also will create a model service contract to incorporate best practices, such as protecting shippers from unjustified carrier surcharges, Lidinsky said.
The FMC also is establishing working groups to work on specific issues, Dye said. One will look into phantom bookings by shippers and carriers' practice of rolling cargo or canceling bookings. A second group composed of ocean and rail carriers, software providers and shippers will work on ways to position containers for agriculture exports, focusing on the Pacific Northwest and Upper Midwest.
The FMC is also part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot project that will create a central registry of empty containers that agriculture shippers can use to locate equipment.
Lidinsky said he would present his proposed Shipping Act changes to the committee within a month.
Source: JOC Sailings
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