FMC Discusses OSRA Implementation, Consumer Assistance Accomplishments
Commissioners were briefed at the September 21, 2023, meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission that substantive progress is being made in completing three of the rulemakings mandated by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA), and that public requests for Commission services and assistance remain strong even in the post-pandemic era.
The Final Rule on Detention and Demurrage Billing Practices is close to being completed and presented it to the Commission for a vote. Staff is simultaneously working on drafting a proposed Final Rule on Unreasonable Refusal to Deal with Respect to Vessel Space Accommodations. OSRA also required the Commission to issue a rule addressing Unfair or Unjustly Discriminatory Methods. The June 2023 Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in the Unreasonable Refusal to Deal With Respect to Vessel Space Accommodations addressed in part issues related to the Unfair or Unjustly Discriminatory Methods rulemaking requirement. Commission staff has begun drafting a proposed rulemaking on all remaining topics related to the Unfair or Unjustly Discriminatory Methods rulemaking requirement.
Three other developments related to OSRA implementation were shared with the Commission:
- The study on Best Practices for Chassis Pools being conducted by the Transportation Research Board is scheduled to be completed by April 2024.
- A proposed information collection that will allow the Commission to gather and publish information on total import and export tonnage and total loaded and empty twenty-foot equivalent units per vessel is now being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget.
- Work is progressing on establishing a webpage on the Commission’s website where the public can easily submit comments, complaints, concerns, reports of non-compliance, requests for investigations, and requests for alternative dispute resolution services.
One provision of OSRA created a new process for parties to challenge charges levied by common carriers and the public is making active use of their ability to file charge complaints at the Federal Maritime Commission. Commissioners were advised that approximately $1.7 million in fees or surcharges have been voluntarily waived or refunded by common carriers since July 2022 through the filing of charge complaints. Commission staff anticipates initiating a rulemaking in 2024 that will establish a permanent charge complaint process.
The Commission’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services (CADRS) has handled more than 300 matters to date this fiscal year. Approximately three-quarters of these cases related to commercial cargo import shipment issues. The Commission was briefed that almost one-half of the total export related cases concern agricultural shipments. CADRS identified a key goal for the coming fiscal year is increasing its public outreach and education efforts.