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Capacity and Equipment Issues

Supporting the flow of U.S. exports and imports is central to the Federal Maritime Commission's mission, which is "[t]o foster a fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system and to protect the public from unfair and deceptive practices." Consistent with that Mission, the Commission recently reported to Congress that:

[T]he Commission's policy and funding priorities center on fostering a viable and vibrant liner shipping environment critical to the nation's international trade and economic growth. . . . The smooth flow of international commerce is vital to the national economy in both providing access to foreign markets for our exports and ensuring the availability of imported goods for domestic production and consumption.

These issues are also an important priority for Congress and the Administration. When it passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in 1998, Congress set forth its intent to "promote the growth and development of United States exports through competitive and efficient ocean transportation." Similarly, on March 11, 2010, the President signed an Executive Order stating that "a critical component of stimulating economic growth in the United States is ensuring that U.S. businesses can actively participate in international markets by increasing their exports of goods, services, and agricultural products." The Obama Administration's National Export Initiative aims to double our exports over the next five years.

Model of the SS Exporter

Model of the SS Exporter, which was built in 1939 for American Export Lines by the U.S. Maritime Commission, the FMC's predecessor agency
Photo by David W. Story

The Commission is working to support the flow of exports and imports during these extraordinary times. The recent downturn impacted both carriers and shippers, and 2009 was likely the worst year in modern ocean shipping history. Total global container trade contracted by 11 percent, with U.S. container exports shipped worldwide falling by 14 percent, in stark contrast to the preceding two years of double-digit U.S. cargo export growth. Freight rates dropped and liner companies reduced and reconfigured their vessel service offerings to adjust to the reduced world-wide demand and consequent overcapacity of vessel space.

During our shift to recovery, the Commission has been meeting extensively with both shippers and carriers in an effort to find solutions to reports of problems with export capacity. Chairman Lidinsky has stressed the need for shippers and ocean carriers to work together as 'partners in recovery.' On March 17, 2010, the Commission initiated a Fact Finding Investigation into Ocean Vessel Capacity and Shipping equipment availability for U.S. exports and imports. Commission Rebecca F. Dye has been named to lead the Fact Finding Investigation.

Parties interested in providing information relevant to this issue are encouraged to contact the Fact Finding Officer.

The FMC's Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services provides a variety of dispute resolution services designed to assist shippers, carriers, and other industry participants resolve commercial disputes. CADRS is available to help parties with any complications that arise related to U.S. export issues or otherwise.

To assist the public in locating information on this topic and related matters, this page will be updated frequently to include a variety of documents, including Commission press releases, Congressional testimony, and Commission actions.

Related Information from Other Government Agencies:

Contact Information


Rapid Response Team

CADRS' Rapid Response Team

Contact: CADRS' Rapid Response Team

Related Links

Vessel Capacity and Equipment Availability Report Recommends Collaborative Approaches to Develop Supply Chain Reliability Solutions

Chairman Lidinsky Testifies to Congress Regarding Ocean Vessel Capacity, Shipping Container Availability, and Fact-Finding Investigation Number 26

Commissioner Dye Testifies to Congress Regarding Ocean Vessel Capacity, Shipping Container Availability, and Fact-Finding Investigation Number 26

June 30, 2010 Subcommittee Hearing on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation

Notice of Hearing in New York

Notice of Hearing on the West Coast

Notice of Hearing in Fact Finding Investigation No. 26

Fact Finding Investigation Pertaining to Vessel Capacity and Equipment Availability in the United States Export and Import Liner Trades

Chairman Lidinsky Testifies to Congress Regarding Vessel Capacity Issues and FMC Fact Finding Investigation

Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Hearing on March 17, 2010: Capacity of Vessels to Meet U.S. Import and Export Requirements

State of the U.S. Trades from Chairman Lidinsky's Testimony to Congress Regarding FY 2011 FMC Budget

FMC Chairman Lidinsky's Response to Representative Cummings Question Regarding Export Capacity at the February 25, 2010 Meeting

President Obama's March 11, 2010 Executive Order - National Export Initiative

Related News Releases and Statements