Carrier Billing Practices Under Review

The Federal Maritime Commission is accepting comments through Nov. 6 on allegations that vessel-operating common carriers may be attempting to hold companies financially responsible for transportation services they did not contract for and may not legally be required to pay. The FMC encourages all interested parties, including VOCCs, shippers, ports, maritime terminal operators, ocean transportation intermediaries, truckers, stevedores, and customs brokers, to submit comments or relevant information.

According to the FMC, allegations were made during a recent investigation into detention and demurrage charges that VOCCs have expansively defined “merchant” in their bills of lading to include persons or entities that have no beneficial interest in the cargo. As a result, third-party logistics providers, harbor truckers, stevedores, customs brokers, and freight forwarders that are only providing service as third parties on behalf of someone specifically identified in the bill of lading have told the FMC that VOCCs are seeking payment from them (including for freight rates and charges, equipment charges, and detention and demurrage charges) pursuant to the terms and conditions of the bill of lading even though they are not party to and have not agreed to be bound by those terms and conditions. VOCCs are also allegedly threatening to discontinue allowing such third parties to provide service for future shipments unless amounts due on current shipments are paid.

The FMC is therefore soliciting public comments on (1) how VOCCs apply the term “merchant” in their bills of lading, (2) whether this definition, as applied, subjects third parties who are not in contractual privity with the carrier to joint or several liability, and (3) whether carriers have enforced this definition against third parties that have not consented to be bound by, or otherwise accept, the terms and conditions of the bill of lading.

OTI License Applications

The FMC has given notice that the following have filed applications (1) for ocean transportation intermediary licenses as non-vessel operating common carriers and/or ocean freight forwarders or (2) to amend an existing OTI license or the qualifying individual for a licensee.

- Belizean Queen Freight Services LLC, Los Angeles, CA (new OFF license)

- Cargoplus Trucking Inc. dba Seaway Logistics, Capitol Heights, MD (new NVO and OFF license)

- Continent Solution System Inc., Ontario, CA (QI change)

- Energize LLC dba Energize Logistics, Miami, FL (new NVO and OFF license)

- Horizon Global Shipping and Freight LLC, Shoreline, WA (new NVO and OFF license)

- Mega Movers LLC, Dorado, PR (new OFF license)

- Nakamura (U.S.A.) Inc., Seattle, WA (QI change)

- Petrasco Services Inc., Houston, TX (new NVO and OFF license)

- Prime Log Solutions Corp., Doral, FL (QI change)

- Ucargo LLC, Pennsauken, NJ (new NVO and OFF license)

- US Pacific Premiere Shipping Inc., Commerce, CA (new NVO and OFF license)

- Well Port Container Line Inc., Jamaica, NY (QI change)

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