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Consumer Affairs & Dispute Resolution Services

Have a shipping problem? If you are involved in a dispute, you may initially try to solve the problem directly with the other party. If you are unsuccessful, you may hire an attorney and take legal action. However, there are alternatives to court action, which may be less costly and time consuming and allow greater control over the outcome.

Dispute Resolution Services
The Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS) offers Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) services to assist the following users and providers of ocean transportation services in resolving problems related to ocean transportation activities through collaboration and settlement:

  • Shippers
  • Carriers
  • Cruise Operators & Passengers
  • Other Industry Participants

Depending on the complexity and status of your dispute, CADRS staff may recommend a specific type of ADR. CADRS ADR methods, such as ombuds assistance, mediation, and arbitration are confidential and offer flexibility in resolving problems. There is no charge for CADRS services.

Assistance with Cargo Shipments, Household Goods Shipments, or Cruise Passenger Issues

    Cargo Shipments: If you have encountered a problem involving a cargo shipment on an oceanborne vessel operating in the U.S. foreign commerce, CADRS may be able to assist you. Often, CADRS is able to help solve the cargo shipping problem including problems that involve, for example, locating cargo; problems with a defaulting operator; processing a damage and loss claim; collection of freight forwarder compensation fees; issues concerning a terminal operator’s interpretation of a tariff rule or lease agreement; disputes over document preparation, etc.

    Household Goods Shipments: Relocating overseas or returning to the U.S. due to a job opportunity or other personal life change may require overseas shipping services for your household goods or other personal property. Finding and working with a reputable household goods mover, a licensed and registered company responsible for receiving, packing, and properly arranging for overseas transportation of your property is an important first step in your international move. If you have encountered a problem shipping your household goods or personal property overseas or shipping your goods to the U.S. from abroad, CADRS may be able to assist you.

    Cruise Passenger Issues: If you have encountered a problem as a cruise passenger CADRS may be able to assist you. Although the Commission does not have jurisdiction over such matters as cruise satisfaction, billing issues, itinerary changes, and other disputes arising between cruise operators and their customers, CADRS offers assistance to cruise passengers by contacting the cruise lines regarding the passenger’s problem and facilitating discussion of the issue.

Consultation and Outreach / Training Opportunities
CADRS answers general inquiries regarding Federal Maritime Commission programs and responsibilities and general questions regarding international ocean shipping practices.

CADRS staff give presentations at meetings, training sessions and conferences on commercial ocean transportation matters and Shipping Act issues. They also give educational presentations and training on using ADR for commercial shipping disputes. Please contact CADRS if you would like CADRS to conduct such training or presentations.

Limitations of CADRS Process
CADRS does not issue legal decisions through the assistance process. If you wish to file a complaint alleging a Shipping Act violation and request an award for damages, you must file a formal or informal docketed complaint (small claims) with the Commission’s Office of the Secretary.

CADRS does not have enforcement authority. If you need to report possible violations of the FMC’s Shipping Statutes and Regulations, please contact the FMC's Bureau of Enforcement.

If an issue does not fall within the Commission’s jurisdiction, CADRS will refer your issue to the proper person or agency when possible.

Contact Information

Phone: 202-523-5807

Toll Free (US only): 866-448-9586

Fax: 202-275-0059



Rebecca A. Fenneman

Deputy Director

Jennifer M. Gartlan

Deputy Director Jennifer Gartlan addressing the International Association of Movers’ annual meeting, October 10, 2014.

Chairman's Statement on 2014 Mediation Week