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Vessel-Operating Common Carriers

Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (VOCCs) or ocean common carrier:

  • Holds itself out to the general public to provide transportation by water of passengers or cargo between the United States and a foreign country for compensation
  • Assumes responsibility for the transportation from the port or point of receipt to the port or point of destination
  • Uses, for all or part of that transportation, a vessel operating between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country

VOCC Agreements Required to be Filed with the FMC
Agreements among ocean common carriers must be filed with the FMC (46 CFR § 535.103) if they involve ocean transportation in the foreign commerce of the United States, and authorize the parties to engage in any of the following activities: 

  • Discuss, fix, or regulate transportation rates, including through rates, cargo space accommodations, and other conditions of service;
  • Pool or apportion traffic, revenues, earnings, or losses
  • Allot ports, restrict or regulate the number and character of sailings between ports
  • Limit or regulate the volume or character of cargo to be carried
  • Engage in exclusive, preferential, or cooperative working arrangements among themselves or with one or more marine terminal operators
  • Control, regulate, or prevent competition in international ocean transportation
  • Discuss and agree on any matter related to service contracts

The FMC conducts a preliminary review of all agreements to determine if the agreement is in compliance with the Shipping Act, and ongoing monitoring of activities once an agreement becomes effective.

How to File an Ocean Common Carrier Agreement
Agreements may be hand-delivered during normal Commission business hours, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or mailed to: Secretary, Federal Maritime Commission, Room 1046, 800 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, DC 20573

Per the Commission's rules, agreement filings are required (46 CFR Part 535 Subpart D) to consist of the following:

On-going Reporting Requirements
For as long as an agreement remains in effect, quarterly monitoring reports (46 CFR § 535.702) must be filed by parties to ocean carrier agreements that authorize discussion or agreement on the following activities:

  • capacity rationalization
  • where the agreement parties hold a combined market share of 35 percent or more and the agreement authorizes certain activities
  • the Commission may require that parties to an agreement with market share below the 35 percent threshold, submit monitoring reports
  • in addition to or instead of the normal monitoring report, the Commission may require alternative periodic reporting requirements for parties to an agreement

Minutes of Meetings Required to be Filed for VOCC Agreements
For as long as an agreement remains in effect, parties to carrier agreements that authorize discussion or agreement on the following activities must file minutes of agreement meetings (46 CFR § 535.704):

  • rates or charges in tariffs or service contracts
  • pooling or apportionment of cargo traffic
  • discussion of revenues, losses or earnings
  • any service contract matter, including voluntary service contract guidelines

Quarterly monitoring reports and minutes of meetings should be sent to: Director, Bureau of Trade Analysis, Room 940, 800 North Capitol Street, NW, Washington, DC 20573, or may be file by direct electronic transmission.

Publication of Tariffs
When publishing VOCC Tariffs:

Service Contracts and Essential Terms
An individual ocean common carrier or an agreement between or among ocean common carriers may enter into a service contract with one or more shippers.

Contact Information

Phone: 202-523-5793

Service Contracts and Tariffs
Phone: 202-523-5856
Fax: 202-523-4372

Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services
Phone: 202-523-5807
Fax: 202-275-0059

Forms & Applications

Instructions for the Information Form for Agreements.

Information Form for Agreements (FMC-150) and Information Form for Agreements in (MS Word)

Instructions  for the Monitoring Report Form

Monitoring Report Form (FMC-151) and Monitoring Report Form in (MS Word)

Service Contract Registration (FMC-83)

Common Carrier Tariff and MTO Schedule Registration (Form FMC-1)