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FMC orders carriers to justify US port congestion surcharges

Just two weeks after launching an audit of container lines, US maritime regulators have ordered eight carriers to show how congestion surcharges and other fees tied to the pandemic-driven supply chain disruption meet legal and regulatory requirements. Carriers have already begun levying a new wave of surcharges for August.

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) on Wednesday said it was launching an expedited review of how CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Matson, Mediterranean Shipping Co., OOCL, SM Line, and Zim Integrated Shipping Services have levied such surcharges tied to US port congestion.

The order from the FMC reflects growing pressure from Congress and the Biden administration to crack down on anti-competitive pressure. On July 20, the FMC told the top nine container lines operating on US trades that the agency would immediately begin auditing how they bill customers detention and demurrage charges.

With its latest order, the agency said it will determine whether carriers gave proper notice of surcharges and whether the reason for the extra fees was clearly explained. Regulators also want to understand which conditions spurred the carriers to issue surcharges and how they defined when the surcharges would cease. Container lines are subject to fines if the FMC finds carriers did not correctly establish tariffs.

We will continue to follow up and keep you aware of this situation.