Senate Committee Backs Action on Port Fees

A key Senate committee is asking the Federal Maritime Commission to give high priority to an NITL-backed effort to clarify when and why ocean freight lines and terminal operators can assess demurrage, detention, and per diem charges when ports are congested or otherwise inaccessible.

In December 2016, the League and 25 other trade associations—known collectively as the Coalition for Fair Port Practices—filed a petition with the FMC asking the agency to initiate a rulemaking proceeding “to clarify what constitutes `just and reasonable rules and practices’ with respect to the assessment of demurrage, detention, and per diem charges by ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators when ports are congested or otherwise inaccessible.”

Yesterday, John Thune, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, sent a letter to acting FMC Chairman Michael Khouri urging the commission to “prioritize” this issue and take actions as warranted.

“Agricultural producers, manufacturers, retailers, and transportation service providers have questioned the fairness of detention and demurrage charges in situations involving port congestion and other circumstances,” Thune wrote. “They assert that such charges have implications for one of the Commission’s critical responsibilities—to ensure a common carrier or marine terminal operator does not fail to establish, observe, and enforce just and reasonable regulations and practices when receiving, handling, storing, or delivering property.”