FMC Supports NVOCC Exemption, Seeks Comments

Acting on eight petitions it received from July 2003 to March 2004, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR) to exempt non-vessel-operating common carriers from tariff publication requirements contained in the Shipping Act of 1984. Petitions were filed by UPS, C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Danzas (doing business as Danmar Lines Ltd.), Danzas Ocean Services, DHL Danzas air and Ocean, BDP International and FedEx Trade Networks requesting individual exemptions from the tariff publication and adherence requirements of the Shipping Act. The NVOCCs argued that changes in the industry since passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) in 1998 warrant the FMC granting NVOCCs the right to confidential contracts.

The individual companies were joined by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America (NCBFAA) which sought the exemption from tariff publication for all NVOCCs. The association asked for unconditional exemption from provisions of the Shipping Act that require NVOCCs to establish, publish, maintain and enforce tariffs setting forth ocean freight rates. NCBFAA asked that NVOCCs be allowed to offer confidential service contracts as carriers.

In the event the UPS or NCBFAA petitions are not granted, Ocean World Lines has asked that the definition of “special contracts” be expanded.

BAX Global also sought a rulemaking to permit it and similar “qualified” NVOCCs to enter into confidential service contracts as ocean common carriers.

The FMC received 1,400 pages of filed comments from more than 80 commenters and 208 members of Congress by the close of the comment period on the last of the petitions.

Acting on a joint comment by the National Industrial Transportation League and others, the FMC reopened comments. Those comments to the “joint proposal” that the FMC act under Rule 73 of the Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure allowing it to expedite adoption of a conditional exemption from tariff publication.

Comments, the FMC proposal, and information on how to comment on the FMC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking are contained on the FMC’s Web site (www.fmc.gov) under “dockets.”

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