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Commissioner Daniel B. Maffei Statement on Coronavirus and the Shipping Industry

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I take reports about effects on the industry of the coronavirus outbreak, including a recent letter to the Commission from the Harbor Trucker Association, very seriously. Today, at my request, I received a briefing on coronavirus-related issues from senior staff at the Commission, and I am confident in the Commission’s response so far.

I think the public should know that the Chairman, Commissioners, and professional staff are paying close attention and understand the outbreak is causing disruptive conditions in the supply chain. Furthermore, we are likely to see longer lasting ripple effects even when the public health crisis subsides.

The Commission’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services is receiving consumer complaints and working to reach satisfactory resolutions or forwarding to the proper agency of jurisdiction. The Bureau of Trade Analysis and Bureau of Enforcement are participating in meetings with industry stakeholders in order to enable them to reach mutually agreeable solutions to manage the crisis conditions. The Commission is closely monitoring what’s going on in the industry and has the authority to gather more information if circumstances warrant.

Right now, I believe most ocean carriers and marine terminal operators are acting responsibly and fairly in these challenging conditions. However, it would be especially unfair to the good actors if anyone is allowed to abuse a public health crisis for financial advantage, and I will strongly advocate for the Commission to investigate fully any potential violations of the Shipping Act that occur as the situation unfolds. As one industry leader expressed to me, the approach should be to proceed with restraint, common sense, and collaboration. We all should follow that advice.

Daniel B. Maffei is a Commissioner with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission. The thoughts and comments expressed here are his own and do not represent the position of the Commission.