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FMC Press Release Posted November 15, 2021 -- Identifying data constraints that impede the flow of ocean cargo and add to supply chain inefficiencies will be the focus of a new Federal Maritime Commission effort to be spearheaded by Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel. This effort will be critical to pinpointing how data can contribute to the long-term reliability of the domestic cargo delivery system.

This initiative will propose recommendations for common data standards used by the international shipping supply chain, as well as access policies and protocols that would streamline information sharing across the ocean supply chain. This multi-phase effort is being launched at the direction of FMC Chairman Daniel B. Maffei with initial findings to be presented at a Maritime Data Summit in Spring 2022.

“Events of the past year have proven the need for the United States to achieve more capacity from our cargo delivery system. Information sharing and additional transparency in how containers move is one way we can move more containers more efficiently. I appreciate Commissioner Bentzel’s willingness to take on this project and I am confident his work will lead to beneficial and implementable recommendations,” said Chairman Maffei.

Over the course of the project Commissioner Bentzel will conduct research, interviews, round tables, and hold public meetings to inform the “status quo” in maritime data. He will explore what common ocean shipping data is created with each hand-off of a container through the supply chain, how that data is stored and shared, and identify what are the critical data elements used by each supply chain party. Ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, truckers, railroads, and other government agencies are among those who will be invited to provide insight about data definitions, classification, and recommendations for improving interoperability of data records involving container shipping. Input from the Commission’s National Shipper Advisory Committee may also be solicited as part of the project. Initial deliverables will include a data inventory and recommendations for common standards.

The first public meeting Commissioner Bentzel will hold is scheduled to take place next month in Washington, D.C. While the agenda for the meeting is still being set, planned speakers will include representatives from the Biden Administration, data experts, standards setting specialists, and representatives from FMC’s National Shippers Advisory Committee.

“I have already met with many port industry leaders and stakeholders around our coastlines, and the topic of reliable, actionable operational shipping information to help more efficiently move cargo was one of the foremost topics of concern. When you go through a U.S. airport you know how and where to park your car, you know that you will be transported to the airport terminal, when you get to the terminal you will be provided information on your gate and information about when your plane will depart and land, adequate personnel are available to handle luggage and run it through security throughout this process, and it is repeated at landing. The maritime industry does not have a similar system in place. Given the immense national economic impact and our Nation’s reliance on ocean shipping, sustained surges in cargo volumes and other operational impacts caused by COVID-19, it is clear to me that we need to develop a stronger system of information for the shipping public. The FMC will work with the industry to develop greater systems of transparency for services surrounding the international intermodal transportation of goods. Our port gateway corridors are limited by physical constraints and the best options for efficiencies lie with the greater utilization of information technologies and coordination between the different modes in the supply chain,” said Commissioner Bentzel.

The project is the latest effort by the Federal Maritime Commission to address supply chain efficiency and congestion issues. Other initiatives include Fact Finding 29, the Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) Audit Program, investigating certain ocean carrier fees and surcharges, issuing a Notice of Inquiry into the use of merchant clauses in VOCCs’ bills of lading to require payment from entities that are not in contractual privity with the VOCC.

FMC Press Release Posted November 17, 2021 -- Six Supply Chain Innovation Teams are being convened by Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye to identify and implement improvements to the process and timing of return and delivery of containers to marine terminals.

This announcement came at a Tuesday meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission where briefings were provided on topics related to conditions in the marketplace for container shipping services, the current state of the ocean-linked supply chain, and the commercial and operational behavior of shipping lines.

Commissioner Dye is convening the teams under her authority as the Fact-Finding Officer for Fact Finding 29. Her goals for the Teams’ work are two-fold. First, for truckers to be able to return an empty container to a terminal and pick-up a loaded container, commonly referred to as a “double move.” The second is to bring certainty and predictability to the earliest return date process to address exporter complaints about the unreliability of the deadline for getting cargo to a terminal. Teams will focus their efforts on improving conditions at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and New York and New Jersey. They will be comprised of executives from each ocean carrier operating in an alliance and from the marine terminal operators that serve them. The first meetings of the Teams will be held December 1.

“Achieving double moves for truckers would improve trucker productivity and remove a constant source of conflict over container return as well as resolve problems with appointment systems and chassis shortages. Earliest return date confusion is a terrible problem for U.S. exporters. This reform would also remove the constant problem to U.S. agricultural exporters of demurrage and detention charges that are not in compliance with our interpretative rule,” said Commissioner Dye.

Chairman Daniel B. Maffei endorsed this latest initiative to address supply chain congestion issues.

“I fully support Commissioner Dye’s leadership in addressing these issues and applaud her continuing efforts to use the Commission’s statutory authorities to improve conditions contributing to inefficiencies in the Nation’s ocean supply chain,” said Chairman Maffei.

In the open session of the meeting, the Commission was briefed on U.S. macroeconomic indicators generally, and their associated impact on shipping, the state of the U.S.-International ocean trades, vessel capacity, and pricing. In closed session, Commissioners were briefed on ocean carrier revenue and pricing, capacity, cancelled sailings, and port calls.