Vessel-Operating Common Carriers - Federal Maritime Commission - Federal Maritime Commission
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Vessel-Operating Common Carriers

A Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) 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, and
  • uses, for all or part of that transportation, a vessel operating on the high seas or the Great Lakes between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country.

Publication of Tariffs

Under Commission rules for VOCCs:

  • All new VOCCs must notify the Commission prior to commencement of operations (46 CFR § 520.3) using Form FMC-1. Any changes to the contact information must be immediately updated using the FMC-1.
  • All ocean common carriers  are required to publish a tariff (46 CFR § 520.3). Tariffs must be open for public inspection and show all rates, charges, classifications, rules, and practices between all points or ports on their service routes.
  • The Commission publishes a list of all carrier tariffs and a list of conference tariffs on its website.

VOCC Agreements Required to be Filed with the FMC

Agreements among ocean common carriers must be filed with the FMC (46 U.S.C. § 40302) unless specifically exempted by Commission regulations at 46 C.F.R. part 535. Examples of ocean common carrier agreements include the following:

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

Agreement Examples and How to File an Agreement.

Special Permission Applications

Applications for Special Permission to waive the notice period requirement for certain tariff publications may be filed pursuant to 46 CFR 520.14, and are posted below.

  • Who is eligible – Common carriers (VOCCs and NVOCCs) and conferences may apply to establish rate increases or decreases on less than the statutory notice, or may apply for a waiver of the provisions of 46 CFR part 520.
  • Application process – Application instructions may be found at 46 CFR 520.14
  • Where to file – Submit your application to the Bureau of Trade Analysis by letter, which may be mailed or sent by email to, and include evidence of payment
  • Filing fee – $313 payable through

Contact Information

Phone: 202-523-5793