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Commissioner Dye Explains Options for Filing Complaints at FMC

Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye today issued the below statement providing guidance on the different avenues shippers have at the Federal Maritime Commission to pursue demurrage and detention complaints.

Her statement provides links to information on the Commission’s website that can be helpful to individuals in determining which type of complaint to pursue and the information necessary to initiate a proceeding. Finally, she outlines the differences between filing a complaint and reporting potential violations of the law that might be investigated by the Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement.

This past summer, in my capacity as Fact Finding Officer for Fact Finding 29: International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, I recommended, among other things, issuing policy statements regarding private party complaints and holding a webinar on Commission processes. The Commission adopted the recommendations and issued three policy statements on December 28, 2021, and I continue to support clarifying Commission procedures through a variety of means, including a webinar.

To the end, I want to highlight that the Commission’s website contains information about how to file complaints seeking financial compensation for damages with the Commission. Filing a complaint is, in some ways, like filing a lawsuit. General information about filing a complaint can be found on the Filing a Shipping Act Complaint page which explains the difference between a Small Claims Complaint and a Formal Complaint.

  • Small Claims Complaint: For claims of $50,000 or less, a small claim alleging Shipping Act violations may be filed. The complaint will be handled by a settlement officer for resolution using informal procedures (46 CFR Part 502 Subpart S).
  • Formal Complaint: Any person may file a formal complaint to allege violations of specific sections of the Shipping Act. The complaint must be sworn and verified, and if seeking financial compensation for damages, be filed within three years of the claimed violation. Formal complaints are generally heard by an Administrative Law Judge and are reviewed by the Commission.

Filing a complaint is distinct from reporting potential Shipping Act violations, see for example, Fact Finding 29: Advice to the Trade, and filing a complaint is distinct from using the Commission’s alternative dispute resolution services. Both, however, are also ways that the shipping public can help the Commission ensure compliance with the Shipping Act and Commission regulations.