The Federal Maritime Commission reports that more than $1 million in disputed charges have been waived or refunded through the charge complaint process established less than a year ago by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022. The FMC notes that this amount does not include penalties or settlements realized through enforcement activities.

Under authority provided under OSRA, the FMC accepts complaints disputing charges assessed by common carriers – including demurrage and detention fees – that may not comply with the provisions of that law. To file a complaint shippers have to identify the carrier and the specific alleged violations, gather and submit supporting documentation (e.g., invoices, bill of lading numbers, and evidence of whether the charges have been paid), and confirm that the disputed charges were incurred on or after June 16, 2022 (the date OSRA 22 was enacted).

If a complaint has sufficient information and details, the FMC asks the carrier to justify the charge or fee being investigated. If the charge or fee is found to not be in compliance with OSRA, the carrier must show why it should not be ordered to refund or waive the charges or fees. The FMC will subsequently issue a decision and, for charges not in compliance with OSRA, order a refund or waiver. The FMC may also initiate a separate civil penalty proceeding with the Commission’s administrative law judge.

The complaint process is separate from pursuing a legal case against violative charges, which shippers can also do by filing a formal or informal complaint with the FMC. A legal case can result in reparations, including freight costs, unreasonable fees, and lost business and profits. In addition, shippers can seek alternative dispute resolution services through the FMC or through a pre-complaint settlement with the carrier.

For more information on the feasibility of filing a complaint, or any of ST&R’s other FMC-related services, please contact Jason Kenner (at (212) 549-0137 or via email), Andy Margolis (at (305) 894-1021 or via email), or Ned Steiner (at (202) 730-4970 or via email.)

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