Background

The Federal Maritime Commission announced Nov. 15 a new investigation that will identify data constraints that impede the flow of ocean cargo and add to supply chain inefficiencies. The FMC said this initiative will propose recommendations for common data standards used by the international shipping supply chain as well as access policies and protocols that would streamline information sharing across that supply chain. Initial findings are due to be presented in spring 2022.

According to an FMC press release, the investigation will explore what common ocean shipping data is created with each hand-off of a container through the supply chain, how that data is stored and shared, and the critical data elements used by each supply chain party. Ocean carriers, marine terminal operators, truckers, railroads, and other government agencies are among those who will be invited to provide insight about data definitions, classification, and ways to improve the interoperability of data records involving container shipping.

“Given our nation’s reliance on ocean shipping, sustained surges in cargo volumes and other operational impacts caused by COVID-19, it is clear to me that we need to develop a stronger system of information for the shipping public,” said FMC Commissioner Carl Bentzel, who will head the initiative. “Our port gateway corridors are limited by physical constraints and the best options for efficiencies lie with the greater utilization of information technologies and coordination between the different modes in the supply chain.”

The FMC notes that this investigation is one of several measures it is taking to address supply chain efficiency and congestion issues. Others include an investigation of detention and demurrage charges, a program to audit ocean carriers for compliance with FMC rules on such charges, and gathering information on the use of merchant clauses in bills of lading.

Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg is continuing a campaign to advocate with federal regulators and lawmakers on solutions to the supply chain crisis. For more information on this campaign and how to participate, please contact Ned Steiner at (202) 730-4970 or via email.

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