April a Good Month for the FMC’s Stakeholders

April is shaping up to be a very good month for maritime Intermediaries and Carriers alike.   Not only (as of this writing) have there been no settlements announced (read: penalties assessed) but the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”) has announced its wish to lighten the regulatory burden on all OTIs at the same time as it has done so for NVOCCs and vessel operators.

First, a final rule by the FMC amending requirements for Service Contracts and NVOCC Service Arrangements (NSAs) was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, April 4, 2017. It will become effective on Friday, May 5, 2017.   46 CFR Part 530.14, regarding effective dates, now reads:

(a) Generally. Performance under an original service contract may not begin before the day it is effective and filed with the Commission. Performance under a service contract amendment may not begin until the day it is effective, provided that the amendment is filed with the Commission no later than thirty (30) calendar days after the effective date.

I have underlined the new language.   The change eases regulatory burdens and reduces the costs of compliance with the agency’s regulations, giving a wider window in which to file amendments to contracts.  Note, however, that this relates to amendments only: initial implementation of such agreements must wait until they are signed and filed with the agency, as before.

Second, enjoy some quotable quotes from Acting FMC Chairman Michael Khouri at the NCBFAA conference in New Orleans this month.  They pretty well speak for themselves:

  • “I am committed to continuing to identify rules that are outdated, or impede the efficient operation of business, and eliminating them whenever possible. And further, I am committed to facilitating a process that petitions for relief filed with the Commission get more expeditious consideration,”
  • He said he intends to make the question ‘Is there a better, less burdensome, less intrusive, less costly way to do this?’ “standard operating procedure,” at the Agency, so that industry is “not overly regulated and competition is encouraged and preserved.”
  • And finally, what OTIs have wished for decades may be a little closer as the agency reconsiders tariff filing:     He said, “When one asks the question – where and how does the ‘filed rate doctrine’ fit with twenty-first century container shipping practices – the answers get weaker and weaker, down to faint whispers. I understand and appreciate the utility of rules tariffs, but rate tariff – not so clear.”

Wow!  We can dream, can’t we?


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