The top nine container lines operating on US trades will be audited on how they bill customers’ detention and demurrage charges, the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has said. Audits will begin immediately.
Where containers are unable to be picked up or returned, the Vessel-Operating Common Carrier Audit programme will assess whether additional storage fees heed the FMC’s interpretive ruling. When the interpretive rule was issued in 2020, the FMC stated the fairness of detention and demurrage fees should be viewed through a lens of whether they encourage the timely retrieval of import containers and return of empties.
A lack of formal complaints, however, and the White House issuing an executive order targeting container carrier practices, has put pressure on the commission to bolster its monitoring of practices that may violate the Shipping Act of 1984.
The container lines being targeted, who must appoint a managing director to respond to the audit and provide monthly updates, are:
- Cosco Group
- CMA CGM
- Ocean Network Express
- Mediterranean Shipping Co.
- Yang Ming
Shippers say they are being charged hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees when congestion prevents them from picking up imports and returning container equipment. Meanwhile, container lines argue that the fees are needed to incentivise the timely removal of cargo and return of equipment.
Alleged unreasonable detention and demurrage charges have long been a grievance for shippers.