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FMC Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2000-2005


This strategic plan for the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”) is a blueprint for agency action for the remainder of FY 2000 through FY 2005. It was developed in line with the Government Performance and Results Act and the agency’s reorganization implemented in February 2000. It is designed to guide the performance of agency programs and operations, and effectively align them with our mission and overall objectives. The plan identifies the FMC’s vision and mission for the foreseeable future. Specific strategic goals are established which are directly linked to achieving our mission. For each strategic goal, we have included targeted outcome goals, the relationship between our strategic and outcome goals, and the means we will use to achieve our goals. We also have identified the external factors we will face and how these factors may affect our strategic goals. Finally, the plan describes the relationship between its strategic goals and the performance goals contained in the FMC’s FY 2001 final annual performance plan, and briefly explains how we propose to accomplish our goals and objectives with available resources.

This plan will enable the FMC to be in the best position to effectively oversee U.S. oceanborne commerce, while being responsive to the legitimate needs of its stakeholders in all segments of the ocean shipping industry and the interested public. The plan recognizes the importance of all FMC employees participating in its implementation in order to improve efficiency and effectiveness, and to ensure the agency’s positive impact on international trade. Given the dynamic nature of the maritime industry, and the Administration and Congressional emphasis on continuously enhancing management effectiveness, this plan will be reassessed periodically and modified as appropriate.


Our vision of the FMC is an independent regulatory agency that fulfills a key leadership role in international ocean trade, is respected by affected parties for its ongoing activities pursuant to its statutory mandates, and is well managed and focused on employee needs and effectiveness.


To achieve its vision, the FMC’s mission is:

Ensure the Nation’s interests are met through an efficient, competitive, market-driven, and nondiscriminatory ocean transportation system that is free of unfair foreign maritime trade practices.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 (“OSRA”) is significantly changing the manner in which the business of ocean shipping is being conducted. Additionally, the industry continues to restructure itself while adapting to dynamic economic conditions and emerging trends. And, international trade remains dependent upon an efficient ocean transportation system. Therefore, it is imperative for the FMC to ensure that its oversight activities produce a competitive and nondiscriminatory trading environment in U.S. ocean commerce that is in harmony with and responsive to international shipping practices. We must focus our energies and efforts on this mission, and assure that the agency is organized and managed in a manner best suited to accomplish it with a minimum of government intervention and regulatory costs. Our actions also must encourage the development of a sound U.S.-flag liner fleet. Accordingly, and in conformity with the Shipping Act of 1984, as amended by OSRA, the FMC has established the following four strategic goals.


1. Efficient Regulatory Process:  Provide a timely, efficient and decisive regulatory process, to enable all segments of the industry to plan and conduct their operations more effectively and with minimal regulatory costs.

2. Balanced Enforcement:  Foster economic efficiencies and reliance on marketplace factors by administering U.S. shipping statutes in a balanced and equitable manner that redresses excessive anticompetitive actions and restrictive practices of foreign governments.

3. Compliance:  Promote the development of U.S. exports and the efficiency of ocean shipping by monitoring and assisting stakeholders in achieving compliance with shipping statutes administered by the FMC.

4. Internal Capabilities:  Ensure the FMC has the organizational ability and the managerial leadership necessary to meet its industry assistance, enforcement, and educational responsibilities.


Our strategic goals address essential FMC programmatic, policy, and management responsibilities. They were developed with a specific focus on accomplishing the basic thrusts of our mission and attaining the competitive, nondiscriminatory shipping environment envisioned by OSRA.

Therefore, the primary intention of Strategic Goal No. 1 is to minimize regulatory costs by maintaining timely and decisive regulatory processes. This will render the FMC more effective in addressing matters that are perpetuating discrimination or precluding industry efficiency, while reducing the industry’s costs in pursuing matters before the Commission. More decisive action on our part will help to remove uncertainties as to statutory interpretations or the application of FMC rules. Such uncertainties delay operational efficiencies or technological changes, each of which can foster a more economical ocean shipping system.

Our second strategic goal is designed to foster economic efficiencies and reliance on typical marketplace factors, and to redress excessive anticompetitive practices harmful to international commerce. This is a direct link to our mission statement’s call for an efficient, competitive, market-driven ocean transportation system. And our continuing efforts to effectively address the actions of foreign governments that adversely affect U.S. interests and our foreign trade comport with that aspect of our mission aimed at creating an environment “free of unfair foreign maritime trade practices.”

Strategic Goal No. 3 centers on achieving compliance with the substantive provisions of the shipping statutes the FMC administers. Accomplishing this goal should minimize the unjust discrimination and undue preference or prejudice that precludes certain shipping interests from obtaining rates or service levels that can render their businesses more economic and efficient. Increasing industry compliance should enable stakeholders to concentrate on fair and legal means of enhancing operational efficiency, secure in the knowledge that competitors are not engaging in widespread illegal actions aimed at improving short-term bottom-line profits without concern for the harmful long-term effects on the industry. The shipping public also will have added protection from potential cargo losses and disruptions through the agency’s focus on intermediaries operating in U.S. trades having the necessary character and financial responsibility to offer viable services. Effective accomplishment of this goal also can help to promote the growth of U.S. exports.

Finally, we have a single comprehensive goal to address internal Commission management and operations. Enhancing our management oversight and improving employee morale can both foster the accomplishment of various Administration directives and programs in this regard, while putting us in a position to more effectively address the specific aims of our mission. This strategic goal also ensures continuation of a comprehensive approach to performance management.

Achieving these mission-driven goals will enable us to effectively address the external factors we face, while assuring an equitable and efficient administration of the shipping statutes under our jurisdiction. Our processes and procedures will be refined or updated as necessary. We are committed to accomplishing our strategic goals and the outcome goals related to them. Therefore, specific means have been identified to enable the FMC to achieve these goals in the most cost-efficient and least disruptive manner possible.


Strategic Goal 1

Efficient Regulatory Process

Provide a timely, efficient and decisive regulatory process, to enable all segments of the industry to plan and conduct their operations more effectively and with minimal regulatory costs.

Outcome Goals

1. Hear and determine all proceedings with diligence and fairness.

2. Streamline conduct of proceedings and other administrative processes affecting regulated activity, minimizing the cost thereof to participants.

3. Have in place clear and understandable rules and guidelines governing conduct of Commission proceedings and governing other administrative processes affecting regulated activity.

4. Adjust regulatory requirements as appropriate to reflect evolving industry practices and innovations.

Relationship Between Strategic Goals and Outcome Goals

A timely, efficient, and decisive regulatory process with informed judicious Commission decisions and actions is invaluable in providing all segments of the regulated community a means to plan and conduct their operations with more certainty as to the acceptability or legality of their activities, with minimal regulatory costs. The first outcome goal, conducting proceedings with diligence and fairness, will necessarily provide the decisive and just results and guidelines which promote proper planning and conduct. The second outcome goal, streamlining of proceedings and administrative processes, will provide for timely rulings and decisions and limit regulatory costs. The third outcome goal, establishment of clarity in rules governing Commission processes, provides the road map to assure expeditious, economical and consistent results. The fourth outcome goal, adjusting the regulatory system as appropriate to reflect industry practices, ensures that the commercial freedoms and opportunities envisioned by OSRA not be thwarted by regulatory inflexibility.

Means to Achieve the Strategic Goal

The FMC will undertake activities to provide a timely, efficient, and decisive regulatory process. These activities will include:

1. Develop and implement initiatives which streamline and expedite the conduct of formal proceedings and of the other regulatory processes affecting activities governed by the Shipping Acts, which will provide for prompt rulings and interpretations defining regulatory conduct. This would involve an ongoing review and reassessment of current rules and internal agency processes for identification of areas of possible improvement.

2. Develop fast track processes for handling certain items requiring Commission action through means such as expanded use of information technology and delegation of authority to staff to act for Commission.

3. Communicate the role and value of the use of alternative dispute resolution at the FMC and foster its use where appropriate. Develop awareness and involvement of Commission management, Administrative Law Judges (“ALJs”), and legal staff, as well as the regulated community through updating and publicizing the Commission’s policies on use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”).

4. Refine and promote an effective agreement review process, modified as directed in the Conference Report accompanying OSRA, to provide efficient, effective Commission consideration of new types of anticompetitive agreements in an evolving industry, and to provide clear guidelines for substantive content of agreement submissions, which guidelines encourage commercial innovations as intended by OSRA.

Strategic Goal 2

Balanced Enforcement

Foster economic efficiencies and reliance on marketplace factors by administering U.S. shipping statutes
in a balanced and equitable manner that redresses excessive anticompetitive actions and restrictive practices of foreign governments.

Outcome Goals

1. Assure carriers do not exercise their antitrust immunity in a manner that results in unreasonable rate increases or service decreases.

2. Ensure that Commission actions are taken with appropriate consideration of their impact on the industry and shippers, and are aimed at market-distorting activities.

3. Foster the objectives of OSRA by providing regulatory assistance and encouraging voluntary compliance.

4. Eliminate or neutralize restrictive trade practices of foreign governments.

Relationship Between Strategic Goals and Outcome Goals

One of the stated purposes of the Shipping Act of 1984 is to provide that there be a minimum of government intervention and regulatory costs. OSRA expanded on this by emphasizing the need for the marketplace to be the main determinant of industry operations. These objectives underlie Strategic Goal 2 and are achieved best through a balanced enforcement. The first outcome goal recognizes that the economic efficiencies and benefits of limited antitrust immunity can be lost if this grant is abused through excessive reductions in competition. The second outcome goal states the fact that balanced enforcement is truly effective when the administration of the statutes considers impacts on the industry and shippers and focuses on practices that distort market operations. The third outcome goal emphasizes the Commission’s intent, when possible, to assist stakeholders in achieving compliance with applicable shipping statutes via informal, fair, pragmatic approaches to its compliance and enforcement responsibilities. The final outcome goal acknowledges that any economic benefits and efficiencies achieved through effective oversight of antitrust immunity can be undermined by unfair, restrictive trade practices on the part of foreign governments.

Means to Achieve the Strategic Goal

In carrying out balanced enforcement and fostering economic efficiencies in the U.S. oceanborne trades, the FMC will undertake a number of activities including:

1. Increase ongoing dialogue with consumer, industry and government entities to educate, receive feedback, and encourage voluntary compliance with the Commission’s statutory responsibilities and applicable regulatory requirements.

2. Assess changing industry conditions in reviewing U.S. shipping statutes, particularly the changes brought by OSRA, for effectiveness in redressing excessive anticompetitive practices and foreign government interference.

3. Provide that Commission actions are taken with appropriate consideration of their impact on the industry and shippers, and that they concentrate on behavior that distorts normal market operations.

4. Increase understanding of anticompetitive practices by focusing on the use of available information-gathering and public participation vehicles.

5. Utilize ADR techniques and resources for resolution of complaints and to achieve compliance with statutory requirements.

6. Review FMC regulations for continuing need, burden on industry, fairness, and clarity, and where possible reduce unnecessary costs while maintaining required protections.

Strategic Goal 3


Promote the development of U.S. exports and the efficiency of ocean shipping by monitoring and assisting stakeholders in achieving compliance with shipping statutes administered by the FMC.

Outcome Goals

1. Increase the rate of compliance under OSRA and other U.S. shipping laws and regulations related to tariffs, unfair trade practices, antitrust immunity, discriminatory practices and conference pricing and service.

2. Continue to enhance industry and public understanding of U.S. laws and regulations regarding international oceanborne commerce.

3. Maintain conditions favorable for U.S. liner flag fleet, shippers, ports and other related entities of the shipping public involved in ocean transportation in the foreign trades.

Relationship Between Strategic Goals and Outcome Goals

The purpose of OSRA and other U.S. laws and regulations governing international ocean transportation is to establish and maintain a competitive, nondiscriminatory regulatory process that ensures an efficient, market-driven transportation system in the ocean commerce of the U.S. and which encourages an economically sound environment for the U.S. shipping industry and public. These laws and regulations cannot accomplish their purposes unless there is compliance with their provisions. The first outcome goal, increase the rate of compliance, is thus related directly to the purpose of ensuring an efficient and economic ocean transportation system. Under the relatively new OSRA environment, it is important that the Commission not permit certain entities to unilaterally view OSRA as a license to ignore shipping statutes and regulations. Absent growing, significant compliance, the purpose cannot be achieved. Obviously such a transportation system can best be accomplished through voluntary compliance. To effect voluntary compliance the industry and public must be aware of the regulatory environment in which it operates, since awareness must precede voluntary compliance. The second outcome goal, improve industry and public understanding, is directly related to and a rational extension of the stated purpose. Companies operating in U.S. ocean commerce can enhance the development of U.S. exports if they fully understand the regulatory environment. Another purpose of U.S. law and regulation is to establish and maintain a competitive, nondiscriminatory regulatory process. Clearly the third goal of maintaining conditions favorable for the U.S. shipping industry and public will naturally occur since a “level playing field” has been and will be in their best interest.

Means to Achieve the Strategic Goal

1. In light of significant industry concentration, other emerging trends, and changes brought by OSRA, prepare a report on the impact of OSRA. The report will be issued by July 31, 2001, and will identify industry practices and evaluate their effects on U.S. ocean commerce. The report can assist the Administration and Congress in their consideration of potential additional changes, and should enhance the industry’s strategic and operational planning.

2. Create and undertake a program to more effectively identify unlicensed, untariffed or unbonded entities and promote compliance by OTIs with OSRA’s licensing, bonding and tariff requirements. These efforts will help to ensure that intermediaries operating in U.S. trades have the necessary character and financial responsibility to offer viable services and will protect shippers using their services.

3. Pursuant to a continued emphasis on ensuring compliance with statutory requirements, appropriately refine and enhance the Commission’s automated service contract filing system to assure its long-term viability and to facilitate review of filed information by the Commission.

4. Continue outreach efforts to the industry and public on FMC laws and regulations to include public speeches, the Internet, media outreach, publications and other such efforts.

Strategic Goal 4

Internal Capabilities

Ensure the FMC has the organizational ability and the managerial leadership necessary to meet its industry assistance, enforcement, and educational responsibilities.

Outcome Goals

1. Organize and manage the agency’s leadership and staff consistent with established priorities, with an emphasis on hiring and recruiting to offset the cumulative effects of attrition.

2. Improve the communication of the Commission program requirements, activities and decisions through modern technologies, including e-mail and the Commission’s Homepage.

3. Improve the Commission’s ability to respond to changing industry conditions and the new business environment emanating from OSRA by continuing to improve automated systems for internal and external processes.

Relationship between Strategic Goal and Outcome Goals

The Commission must have an effective, productive and organized leadership and work force to fulfill its regulatory and administrative responsibilities as outlined in its strategic and performance plans. By ensuring that emphasis is placed on the organizational structure, managerial leadership, and staff qualifications, the first outcome goal, organize and manage the agency’s leadership and staff, is specifically designed to accomplish this end by focusing directly on the issue. Moreover, it places emphasis on a government-wide issue — the aging Federal workforce. The second outcome goal is to improve the communication of the Commission’s program requirements, activities and decisions. This goal will enable management to meet the enforcement and educational responsibilities as stated in the strategic goal, utilizing modern, economic and efficient technologies. The third outcome goal, improve the Commission’s ability to respond to changing industry conditions and the new OSRA environment, is not only directly linked to the strategic goal, but to the first two outcome goals. It will be the outcome if the first two outcome goals are achieved, and it provides the ability to ensure that the FMC is meeting its regulatory responsibilities as stated in the strategic goal.

Means to Achieve the Strategic Goal

The FMC will establish activities to enhance its organizational abilities and managerial leadership. These activities will include:

1. Continue to develop and monitor performance plans based upon the FMC’s Strategic Plan. This process should include Commission employees from all levels. Annually assess agency performance in support of stated goals and objectives, and refine goals, objectives and measures, as necessary, while enhancing the FMC’s ability to perform its functions efficiently.

2. Promote a culturally diverse workforce and encourage policies that help employees demonstrate their abilities and achieve the full extent of their potential, and foster a culture in which subordinates are comfortable offering feedback to their supervisors.

3. Reassess agency priorities given experiences under OSRA and the February 2000 reorganization, and ensure that agency resources are allocated according to program priorities to ensure maximum and effective utilization of personnel and equipment.

4. Senior management will develop and implement ways to effectively communicate program requirements and Commission activities and decisions to employees, the regulated community and interested parties. This will be accomplished through the increased use of such means as e-mail, the Internet, improved communication, public outreach, the utilization of an Intranet and/or other new technologies.

5. Assess how the FMC might enhance its use of technology and determine the cost involved in optimizing its effectiveness in this area.

6. Identify program/skill areas which currently or in the foreseeable future will be compromised by staff attrition and recruit and hire qualified personnel. As an example, develop a competitive SES Candidate Development Program for use in selecting qualified individuals to fill future leadership positions, as well as other staffing initiatives as appropriate.


1. The globalization of ownership of shipping lines has a direct impact on the manner in which the Commission addresses its responsibility to guard against the restrictive practices of foreign governments. Some U.S.-owned carriers are being replaced by foreign carriers who have opted to operate U.S.-flag vessels. Additionally, other sectors of the industry have witnessed foreign companies acquiring or merging with U.S. companies. Therefore, it is imperative that the agency’s means of addressing restrictive foreign shipping practices evolve and adapt to these changes in the international commercial arena. The agency must refine its approach to this statutory mandate, so that its efforts ensure the presence of healthy and competitive U.S. interests across the various sectors of the maritime industry, as well as encourage the continued viability of an economically sound and efficient U.S.-flag liner fleet capable of meeting national security needs.

2. National governments, the European Union, and various international organizations, such as the OECD and WTO, are reviewing shipping antitrust laws and regulations. The agency’s cognizance of these developing regulatory systems and whether these systems are similar to, complementary with, or dissimilar to U.S. shipping antitrust and competition policies may affect the focus of our compliance and regulatory programs, as would any future change to U.S. law.

3. The ocean transportation industry is continuously changing, e.g., carrier consolidations, information technology (e.g., electronic commerce developments), prominence of consolidators, volume v. value-of-service pricing, and adaption to a new statute and regulations. The agency’s regulatory process and its utilization of internal capabilities must be organized in a manner capable of adjusting its compliance and balanced enforcement objectives to meet industry demands and innovations. Adjustments to these objectives will be adopted to the extent and in a way consistent with the agency mission of ensuring an efficient, competitive, market-driven, and nondiscriminatory ocean transportation system that is free of unfair foreign maritime trade practices.


The Commission’s annual performance goals all are tied directly to our strategic goals and objectives. In essence, our annual performance goals are intended to specifically accomplish a goal, or to indicate the extent to which they are being achieved in a given year.

In preparing our annual performance plan, we used our strategic plan as the basic blueprint. All performance goals reflect specific projects or activities necessary to accomplish our major goals. Inasmuch as the majority of our responsibilities are dictated by statutorily-imposed goals, our ongoing activities remain somewhat constant. This facilitates identification and accomplishment of positive outcomes. It also enables us to focus on measurable, quantifiable goals that are in line with our stated mission and established goals. Our final FY 2001 annual performance plan specifically aims to pinpoint activities and outcomes which will enable the Commission to effectively address its general goals and objectives. This direct linkage permits agency management to direct and guide staff towards actions that fulfill our primary policy goals and statutory responsibilities.

Set forth below are illustrative examples of performance goals from our final FY 2001 annual performance plan that support each of our strategic goals.

1. Efficient Regulatory Process.

  • So as to streamline proceedings and ensure appropriate diligence, by June 30, 2001, distribute through the Commission’s Homepage, ALJ initial decisions, significant Commission and ALJ interlocutory decisions, and all Commission Orders of Investigation, Show Cause Orders or similar documents.
  • By September 30, 2001, develop and implement an enhanced ADR program to reduce the time and costs of certain regulatory processes.
  • By March 31, 2001, propose amendment to the Commission’s regulation for agreement minutes reporting to clarify filer’s responsibility, and to develop and implement an alternative reporting requirement for carrier alliances.

2. Balanced Enforcement.

  • Develop and implement by January 31, 2001, a more efficient review process to analyze confidentially filed service contracts for competitive problems, potential malpractices, and evidence of a liberalized contracting process.
  • Initiate appropriate actions to address significant market-distorting activities by VOCCs.
  • Throughout FY 2001, when possible, resolve issues of compliance and informal complaints by providing regulatory assistance and encouraging voluntary compliance and use of ADR resources.

3. Compliance.

  • Issue a report by July 31, 2001, on the impact of OSRA, identifying industry practices since the passage of that Act, and evaluating the effects of those practices on U.S. ocean commerce.
  • By December 31, 2000, institute software enhancements to the agency Internet service contract filing system to assure the long-term viability of the system which receives the service contracts required to be filed by OSRA.
  • Create a program by March 31, 2001, to more effectively identify unlicensed, untariffed or unbonded entities and promote compliance by OTIs with OSRA’s licensing, bonding and tariff requirements.

4. Internal Capabilities.

  • Develop by March 31, 2001, a competitive SES Candidate Development Program to be used for selecting qualified individuals to fill future leadership positions in the agency’s SES corp.
  • By March 31, 2001, assess the agency’s February 2000 reorganization to determine if it is facilitating accomplishment of OSRA’s objectives, resources continue to be allocated to obtain optimal efficiency, and further streamlining or organizational changes dictated by current industry circumstances or Administration/Congressional policy directives are necessary.
  • By September 30, 2001, enhance consumer guidance and assistance via e-mail and agency website improvements.


The Commission contemplates implementing this plan within its current operational structure and with presently available technologies and facilities. The Commission revised its internal organizational structure and reallocated resources in February 2000. This reorganization was designed to enable the Commission to more effectively discharge its statutory responsibilities as changed by OSRA. This reallocation of functions and personnel places the Commission in a better position to focus on the policy objectives of OSRA.

Funding and FTE levels do remain a concern. The Commission retains an adequate personnel mix, including attorneys, economists, transportation specialists, investigative personnel, and a range of clerical and administrative staff. But the Commission has been faced with continually declining resources in the recent past as a result of significantly reduced appropriations. As we approach the close of FY 2000, the number of employees on board is lower than at any time since the agency was established in 1961. And our budgetary constraints prevent us from taking advantage of ever-improving technology and from procuring the resources necessary to achieve higher levels of efficiency. This has forced us to reduce our emphasis in certain areas, as well as alter our approaches to accomplishing various program responsibilities.

While this situation has not precluded us from performing our primary statutory responsibilities, we have been unable to devote the necessary resources and attention to several projects and functions. Additionally, some drop-offs in efficiency and effectiveness have occurred. To the extent the Commission experiences further budgetary constraints, it will be necessary to reassess our goals and objectives and determine whether additional changes in operating structure or resource allocation should be implemented. Where statutory time frames are not prohibitive, further reduction in service, response times, etc., will be unavoidable.


The Commission will ensure that it reviews and assesses the manner in which it is achieving stated goals and intended objectives. While not programmatic evaluations, these efforts will provide pertinent information to assess the effectiveness of agency programs and processes.

The Commission will review various program activities throughout the year. This will be accomplished via:

  • Monthly status reviews of all adjudicatory proceedings, with an annual evaluation.
  • Periodic reviews to assess the impact of any legislative changes effectuated.
  • Periodic statistical reports by program area (e.g., pertinent statistics on various enforcement/compliance and/or monitoring initiatives).
  • Ongoing assessment at various milestones of specific projects.
  • Annual review of complaints and inquiries.
  • The Chairman’s regular policy meetings with agency senior executives.
  • The Executive Director’s biweekly meetings with Bureau Directors.
  • The performance appraisal process, which includes 6-month progress reviews, annual performance appraisals, and ad hoc meetings as appropriate.

With respect to an overall review of program operations and resource allocation in line with OSRA, the Commission will be assessing the impact of its FY 2000 reorganization to determine whether agency policy objectives are being met and resources are appropriately allocated, and the levels of efficiency being achieved by various functions. This review will be useful for resource management analysis and in deciding what types of changes to the present system will be necessary to meet our strategic goals.

Additionally, the Commission will continue to assess the best ways to obtain and use feedback from affected parties, the Administration, the Congress, and other government agencies to assist the Commission in implementing its mission and directing its resources. This will be accomplished in connection with preparation of our two-year study of the impact of OSRA. All sectors of the industry will be contacted concerning the impact of OSRA, our new oversight focus, our implementing regulations, and any changed procedures, as well as various Commission initiatives, i.e., compliance, enforcement and monitoring.