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FMC ANNOUNCES ISSUANCE OF CIRCULAR LETTER CONCERNING CHARGES ASSESSED FOR ACCESS TO TARIFFS AND TARIFF SYSTEMS

October 6, 2000

FEDERAL MARITIME COMMISSION

FMC ANNOUNCES ISSUANCE OF CIRCULAR LETTER
CONCERNING CHARGES ASSESSED FOR ACCESS
TO TARIFFS AND TARIFF SYSTEMS

Washington, D.C. 20573

NR 00-16



CONTACT: AUSTIN L. SCHMITT, DIRECTOR

BUREAU OF TRADE ANALYSIS AT (202) 523-5796

FOR RELEASE - OCTOBER 6, 2000:

The Federal Maritime Commission today issued a circular letter to common carriers, conferences, and tariff publishers concerning charges assessed for access to tariffs and tariff systems. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 requires carriers and conferences to publish tariff information in private, automated systems, and to make the information available electronically to any person, without limits on time, quantity, or other such limitation. A "reasonable charge" may be assessed for access to these systems.

The Commission noted that with the advent of internet technology as the primary means of distributing information, it anticipated that tariffs would become readily accessible to the shipping public. However, it stated that its review and the informal comments of various users seem to indicate that the levels of access charges are serving as an improper impediment to accessing a number of systems.

The circular letter provides guidance on what constitutes a reasonable charge. Specifically, the Commission indicated that it appears that reasonable tariff access charges should recover only costs and expenses incurred by carriers in making their tariffs accessible to the public. The Commission opined that access charges should not recover the costs and expenses associated with: developing or publishing a tariff/essential terms publication; providing access to federal agencies; providing access to the publishing carrier's or conference's employees or agents; or developing any other function or service for possible use by a carrier's or conference's employees or agents. The Commission applied the same rationale to all subscription charges that may be assessed.

The circular letter indicated the Commission's hope that carriers, conferences and publishers would adhere to its guidance so as to ensure the availability of tariff information as envisioned by Congress without the need for further Commission action.

Interested parties may view the entire circular letter by accessing the Commission's Internet website at: www.fmc.gov.