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Possible Port Congestion Surcharges Industry Advisory

May 29, 2014

The Federal Maritime Commission has received numerous informal inquiries in relation to certain congestion surcharges that have been announced in tariff rules required to be published under the Shipping Act of 1984, as revised by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (1998) and the Commission’s regulations at 46 CFR Part 520. This Industry Advisory is issued in order to respond to those inquiries.

Unless done pursuant to a waiver or exemption, any tariff rule (including surcharges) of a common carrier that results in an increased cost to a shipper may not be effective earlier than 30 days after publication. 46 U.S.C. § 40501(e); 46 CFR § 520.8.

The Shipping Act and the Commission’s regulations require that the rules applicable to any given shipment shall be those in effect on the date the cargo is received by the common carrier or its agent. 46 CFR § 520.7. Thus, if any cargo-related disruption were to occur at a port after cargo has been tendered by a shipper, a carrier may only lawfully charge the rates in effect on the day the cargo is tendered.  These regulations apply both to import and export cargo.

If you have questions or concerns about a tariff publication, please contact: Gary Kardian, Director, Office of Service Contracts and Tariffs, Bureau of Trade Analysis, (202) 523-5856. For questions about the Shipping Act or the Federal Maritime Commission’s regulations, please contact: the Office of the General Counsel, (202) 523-5740.