In September IAM (International Association of Movers) joined dozens of industry stakeholders with a letter of support for H.R. 4996, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 (OSRA).
OSRA focuses on a number of areas important to the household goods shipping community, including detention and demurrage billing practices, burden of proof for charges assessed, and increased regulatory authority for the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC)to regulate the ocean carrier community.
The letter noted that while COVID-19 has exacerbated many shipping challenges, several areas are of longstanding concern and are best addressed through legislative and connected regulatory actions at the FMC. If passed, OSRA would put into statute many of the issues addressed in the Commission's Final Interpretive Rule (FIR) covering detention and demurrage charges, issued by the FMC last year. As many members know, IAM submitted and provided several pieces of testimony in support of the FIR, placing a particular focus on government inspections for household goods shipments.
Following the letter's release, the FMC provided notification that the Commission intends to move forward with two demurrage-and-detention related initiatives. The Commission announced its intent to issue a formal policy statement which will outline the ability of shippers, truckers, and others to obtain reparations for conduct that violates the Shipping Act, including conduct related to demurrage and detention. The policy statement will provide guidance on the scope of the prohibition against carrier retaliation, when attorney fees may be imposed on a non-prevailing party, and who may file a complaint with the Commission alleging unreasonable conduct.
The Commission will also begin a formal rulemaking process to consider and determine whether ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators would be required to include certain minimum information with demurrage and detention billings. The rulemaking will also examine whether or not carriers and marine terminal operators should adhere to certain practices regarding the timing of demurrage and detention billings.
Next steps: IAM is working closely with lead Congressional staff to gather co-sponsors support for H.R 4996. IAM also intends to provide comments and perspective to the FMC once the policy statement and notice of rulemaking are formally issued. If you have questions on the legislation or initiatives being taken by the FMC, or would like any additional information, please contact Bryan Vickers (703-403-2882, email@example.com) with IAM's Government and Regulatory Affairs Team.