Carrier Tariffs. The Federal Maritime Commission has issued a final rule that, effective Feb. 1, makes a number of changes to its regulations governing carrier tariffs, including the following.

- requires ocean carriers and conferences to provide free access to their tariffs by removing the option to charge a fee

- allows non-vessel-operating common carriers to cross reference a carrier’s tariff but only for those charges being passed through to the shipper at cost

- clarifies that NVOCCs, like carriers, can pass through to shippers (without markup) charges not under the control of the carrier (canal tolls, taxes, etc.)

- clarifies the types of relationships that are allowable for the co-loading of cargo among NVOCCs

- specifies that failure to maintain a tariff will result in the revocation of an NVOCC’s license or the suspension of a foreign-based NVOCC’s registration

The FMC has opted not to include in this rule proposed changes that would have (1) updated the definition of co-loading to limit this term to the act of combining less-than-container loads and (2) required NVOCCs that tender cargo to another NVOCC to annotate each applicable bill of lading with the identify of any other NVOCC to which the shipment was tendered.

New Fees. The FMC noted recently that ocean common carriers are adjusting vessel operations and deployments in response to threats to commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden regions. In doing so, carriers are announcing rate increases and/or instituting fees or surcharges, ostensibly to recoup expenses associated with longer voyages and/or higher costs of insurance and security.

However, the FMC is warning carriers that it is monitoring these actions to ensure their compliance with all statutory and regulatory requirements. For example, fees and surcharges must meet strict legal requirements, competition among carriers must not be suspended, and carriers and parties to vessel sharing agreements must continue to obey the Shipping Act, other U.S. competition laws, and all other applicable laws.

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