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Under the coordination of the Office of the Managing Director, the Bureau of Enforcement participates in investigations into the activities of ocean common carriers, ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs), shippers, marine terminal operators and other persons to ensure effective compliance with the statutes and regulations administered by the Commission. These investigations often result from information provided from the industry or by other government entities. Monitoring and investigative functions are generally undertaken by the Commission’s Area Representatives, based in the major U.S. port cities.

The Bureau prepares and serves notices of violations of the relevant shipping statutes and Commission regulations, and may enter into negotiations to compromise and settle civil penalty demands arising out of those violations. Other Bureau investigations may be resolved through compliance measures. The Commission’s civil penalty collections are reported annually to the U.S. Congress.

If the event settlement is not reached, Bureau attorneys may recommend commencement of a formal Commission proceeding seeking the assessment of civil penalties or other relief for conduct or practices violating the shipping statutes. Bureau attorneys are designated to serve as the prosecuting attorneys on behalf of the Commission in such formal proceedings.

The Bureau will pursue enforcement actions and investigations into violations of the Shipping Act and the related regulations administered by the Commission. Many of the prohibited acts for which the Bureau seeks civil penalties can be found at 46 U.S.C. 41102-41106, and include market-distorting, fraudulent and anticompetitive practices such as:

  • Unfiled agreements among ocean common carriers
  • Abuses of antitrust immunity
  • Misdescriptions or misdeclarations of cargo
  • Unlawful use or access to the service contracts of another shipper
  • Unlicensed OTI activity
  • Untariffed or unbonded cargo carriage
  • Unbonded Passenger Vessel operations
  • Unfair or unjustly discriminatory practices of ocean common carriers and OTIs
  • Other consumer abuses, including failure of carriers or intermediaries to carry out transportation obligations, resulting in cargo delays and financial losses for shippers.