The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is investigating alleged excessive tariff fees that ocean carriers charge shippers. The outcome could lead to new tariff regulations.
An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) looking into the matter, scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, is the latest action by the FMC on container carrier billing practices, including an investigation into charges for services that may not have been part of the shipping contract.
“The commission observes that carriers are charging widely varying fees and imposing varying minimum requirements for access to common carrier tariffs,” according to the notice. “The commission seeks information regarding the impact of such fees and minimum requirements on public access to common carrier rules, rates, practices and charges in published tariffs and whether existing fees or requirements are unreasonable.”
The ability for shipper customers to gain access to tariffs is particularly important during periods of transportation rate volatility — as is the case currently in container shipping — to ensure that shippers are aware of the most current applicable rates, the FMC’s notice points out. “Some tariff access fees may be so high that they effectively prevent tariff users from reviewing certain carrier tariffs, particularly those with substantial minimum charges, such as $1,000 or $1,500,” the ANPRM states.