League Continues Push against Unfair Port Practices

NITL continues to play a leading role in addressing unfair detention and demurrage practices at U.S. ports, joining with several other trade associations in filing comments last week with the Federal Maritime Commission to assist the agency in its investigation into such practices.

The comments were filed by the Coalition for Fair Port Practices, a group of trade associations
(including NITL) that represent thousands of importers, exporters, drayage providers, freight forwarders, customs brokers, and third-party logistics providers. The coalition prepared the comments in response to an interim report released by the FMC on Sept. 4. That report, which was based on a six-month study conducted by FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye, requested additional information about six priority areas, including (1) developing transparent, standardized language for demurrage and detention practices and (2) simplifying demurrage and detention billing and dispute resolution processes.

Demurrage is assessed on cargo left at a terminal beyond allotted free time. Detention charges are levied for late return of carriers’ containers. The fees are designed to discourage the use of terminals for long-term storage and to improve equipment utilization.

The FMC’s investigation of detention and demurrage practices was sparked by a petition filed in December 2016 by the Coalition for Unfair Port Practices. The petition asked the FMC to initiate a rulemaking proceeding to restrict the ability of steamship lines and marine terminal operators to impose detention and demurrage charges due to circumstances beyond shippers’ control. In response to the petition, the FMC launched a fact-finding investigation in April 2018 led by Commissioner Dye.

Commissioner Dye is expected to release her final report in December. The following month, she will attend NITL’s 2019 Transportation Summit, where she is scheduled to discuss the report’s findings.