Thursday, March 18, 2010

FMC to Investigate Ocean Carrier Capacity

The Federal Maritime Commission announced Wednesday that it has launched an investigation into ocean vessel capacity and shipping equipment availability for US exports and imports.

The announcement was made by FMC Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr. during testimony before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

During his testimony, Lidinsky told the committee that "available shipping space is a key ingredient to the financial recovery of American exporters and importers. I have full confidence that... the commission's fact finding investigation will shed valuable light on the shipping capacity issue and inform further action or policy improvements by the FMC and Congress."

FMC Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye, unanimously appointed by the commission to lead the investigation, told the committee that, "If a US exporter has goods to sell overseas, that exporter must be able to get them delivered. I intend to conduct a full and fair analysis of how we can make that happen."

Under the investigation order, which calls for initial findings to be reported June 15 and a final report on July 31, Dye has the ability to call hearings, order research and/or reports, and subpoena records.

In addition, FMC officials told the committee that while US import/export volumes and carrier revenues have begun to rebound after last year's precipitous declines, reports continue to reach the commission of US exporters and importers having difficulty obtaining liner service and problems with the distribution and availability of shipping containers.

Lidinsky also told the committee that the FMC has been taking additional steps to address the recent vessel capacity and equipment availability issues, including: meeting with groups of US exporters and importers and pressing ocean vessel carriers for responses to shippers' problems; working with USDA, exporters, and the ocean carriers on ways to make shipping container demand, location, and availability more transparent to all parties; and, working with individual shippers and carriers to resolve service, capacity, and other issues.

The FMC, Lindinsky said, continues to encourage carriers, exporters, and importers to take advantage of these services.

"We will continue to explore all options for helping the ocean carriers and their exporter and importer customers cooperate as 'partners in recovery' and put Americans back to work," said Lidinsky.