Ocean Shipping Reform Act: Rework Container Fee Assessment

To address ongoing supply chain and port congestion issues, although conditions have eased recently, President Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in June. It empowers the Federal Maritime Commission to do things like stopping ocean carriers from unreasonably declining American cargo and imposing unjust fees. All good so far.

But one thorny provision requires adding the date a shipping container is made accessible on all invoices, in order to fairly assess detention fees for the late return of empty containers to the port. This new data element has essentially shifted the burden of proof for assessing accurate fees to the ocean carriers and non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) who act as intermediaries between carriers and consignees.

So, what does all this mean for supply chain flow and port traffic, the fair assessment of costs and for the freight consignees aka shippers? Bryn Heimbeck, president and co-founder of supply chain management firm Trade Tech Inc., helps us understand the implications of this aspect of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, and how new rulemaking by the FMC can address the inequity.