The Federal Maritime Commission is inviting comments through Dec. 6 on its initial draft strategic plan for fiscal years 2018-2022, which provides the framework to address current and anticipated challenges in the ocean transportation industry over the next five years. This plan retains, with slight language modifications, the FMC’s strategic goals of (1) maintaining a competitive and reliable international ocean transportation supply system and (2) protecting the public from unlawful, unfair, and deceptive ocean transportation practices.

With respect to the first goal, the FMC states that significant changes over the past decade, including carrier consolidations, mergers, and a major carrier bankruptcy, have changed the landscape of the industry. Operational alliance composition has been upended and the FMC foresees mounting impacts on both existing and future filed agreements. Anticipation of these changes in concerted carrier activity and market structure will drive the FMC to intensify its efforts to timely and efficiently analyze the competitive impact of carrier and marine terminal operator cooperation, balancing the cost-containment strategies and cooperative working arrangements of vessel-operating common carriers and/or MTOs with the legitimate business needs of U.S. exporters and importers.

The FMC has developed a new objective under this goal of ensuring that actions under filed agreements do not result in unreasonable increases in transportation costs and/or unreasonable decreases in transportation services. The plan sets forth a number of strategies to achieve this objective, including obtaining and regularly evaluating information through reports, inquiries, complaints, and research studies; informally working with agreement parties to negotiate changes in agreements that raise competitive concerns; and investigating and enforcing statutory violations.

The FMC states that it has also retained those other goals and measures that have proven to be well-tested and appropriate targets for accomplishing its mission.

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