FMC Probes Shipping Lines’ Anti-Retaliation Compliance
December 26, 2022
Federal Maritime Commission is asking the top 20 shipping lines calling the
United States to provide information on how they are complying with the new
prohibitions on retaliation established by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022
The added protections against retaliation were created by Section 5 of OSRA and
became effective immediately upon the law’s enactment in June. The prohibitions
apply to common carriers, marine terminal operators (MTO), and ocean
The Commission’s Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) Audit Team is examining
how ocean carriers are adapting to the increased prohibitions on retaliatory and
discriminatory behavior. The Team will specifically focus on how companies are
training personnel at all levels to act legally, and how those same employees
are being made aware of the consequences for violating the law.
“The Ocean Shipping Reform Act made it clear that it is absolutely illegal for
ocean carriers to discriminate or retaliate against a shipper for filing a
complaint or challenging a charge. The FMC will thoroughly investigate any
allegation of illegal behavior and prosecute aggressively when warranted. This
is something that everyone in a company, from the newest sales associate to the
CEO, must understand and that is why the VOCC Audit Team is carrying this
message directly to ocean carriers serving the United States. Even a simple
verbal threat to a shipper from an ocean carrier employee could undermine U.S.
law and will not be tolerated,” said Chairman Daniel B. Maffei.
The examination began earlier this week via correspondence and all recipients
will have until mid-January to provide their initial responses. Additionally,
the VOCC Audit Team will discuss this topic in person and in deeper detail with
the 11 largest carriers participating in the next round of meetings through the
VOCC Audit Program.
top 11 carriers were reached through their designated compliance officer. One of
the Final Recommendations Commissioner Rebecca Dye made at the administrative
conclusion of Fact Finding 29 in May was that all ocean carriers and MTOs
designate a Commission compliance officer who reports directly to the most
senior executive responsible for business in the United States. Each of the
companies participating in the VOCC Audit Program voluntarily responded promptly
and positively to this recommendation.
The VOCC Audit Program was established in July 2021 by Chairman Maffei with the
initial mandate of assessing ocean carrier compliance with the FMC’s rule on
demurrage and detention. In March 2022, Chairman Maffei ordered the program’s
scope expanded to also evaluate how shipping lines serve U.S. exporters. The
VOCC Audit Program allows the Commission to engage ocean carriers directly and
frequently to raise and resolve issues of concern.
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