League Voices Join Chorus Seeking Relief from Unfair Port Charges

Don Pisano, a member of the NITL Board of Directors and former chair of NITL’s Ocean Transportation Committee, and Karyn Booth and Nick DiMichael, League counsel, joined other representatives from a broad range of organizations earlier this week to urge the Federal Maritime Commission to restrict the ability of steamship lines and marine terminal operators to impose detention and demurrage charges due to circumstances beyond shippers’ control.

At hearings at FMC headquarters in Washington, D.C., the affected organizations, known collectively as the Coalition for Fair Port Practices, noted that unfair port charges have been levied more frequently in recent years as a result of labor strife, increasing freight volumes, the Hanjin bankruptcy, and weather emergencies.

Demurrage is assessed on cargo left at the 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.

In December 2016, the Coalition for Fair Port Practices filed a petition (Petition P4-16) with the FMC asking the agency to initiate a rulemaking proceeding on this matter. The FMC announced in November 2017 that it would hold hearings on the issue on January 16-17.