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Ocean Export and Import Capacity Fact Finding Launched

March 17, 2010

NR 10-09

Contact: Karen V. Gregory, Secretary (202-523-5725)

In testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation today, the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC or Commission) Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr., announced that, by unanimous vote, the FMC has initiated a Fact Finding Investigation into ocean vessel capacity and shipping equipment availability for U.S. exports and imports. Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye has been named to lead the Fact Finding.

During his testimony to the Subcommittee, Chairman Lidinsky said that "available shipping space is a key ingredient to the financial recovery of American exporters and importers." He also stated: "I have full confidence that under Commissioner Dye's guidance, the Commission's Fact Finding Investigation will shed valuable light on the shipping capacity issue and inform further action or policy improvements by the FMC and Congress."

Commissioner Dye stated: "If a U.S. exporter has goods to sell overseas, that exporter must be able to get them delivered. I intend to conduct a full and fair analysis of how we can make that happen. I look forward to cooperating with the ocean carriers, intermediaries, equipment leasing companies, and their exporter and importer customers as partners in this effort to identify the issues and develop potential solutions."

The Commission's Fact Finding Order noted that 2009 was one of the worst years in the fifty-year history of international containerized shipping, during which U.S. export and import volumes and carrier revenues fell precipitously. Recent gains, however, have been accompanied by a number of reports of U.S. exporters and importers having difficulty obtaining liner service and problems with the distribution and availability of shipping containers.

The Commission's Fact-Finding Order and today's testimony observed that the Shipping Act establishes the goal of promoting "the growth and development of United States exports through competitive and efficient ocean transportation." The Commission also noted that President Obama has recently directed federal agencies "to use every available federal resource" to increase U.S. exports over the next five years.

Chairman Lidinsky told the House Subcommittee that the FMC has also been taking other steps to address the recent vessel capacity and equipment availability issues, including:

  • The Commissioners and staff have been meeting with groups of U.S. exporters and importers and pressing ocean vessel carriers for responses to shippers' problems.
  • The Commission's staff has been working with USDA, exporters, and the ocean carriers on ways to make shipping container demand, location, and availability more transparent to all parties.
  • The FMC's Office of Consumer Affairs & Dispute Resolution Services and Area Representatives at major ports are working with individual shippers and carriers to resolve service, capacity, and other issues. The Commission continues to encourage carriers, exporters, and importers to take advantage of these services.

"We will continue to explore all options for helping the ocean carriers and their exporter and importer customers cooperate as 'partners in recovery' and put Americans back to work," said Chairman Lidinsky.