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FMC Seeking Feedback on Emergency Data Sharing Requirement for Carriers, Terminals

The Federal Maritime Commission is seeking public comments on whether it should issue an emergency order requiring carriers and terminal operators to share new information with shippers on “cargo throughput and availability.” The FMC said it can issue the potential emergency order -- using an authority granted to it by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act -- if it determines that supply chain congestion has created “an emergency situation of a magnitude such that there exists a substantial, adverse effect on the competitiveness and reliability of the international transportation supply system.” Comments are due Sept. 14.

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The order would require ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to share certain cargo data directly with “relevant shippers, rail carriers, or motor carriers,” which would help make loading, unloading and the transportation of cargo more efficient, the FMC said in a notice. If the commission issues the order, it would remain in effect for no longer than 60 days but may be renewed. Carriers could apply to be exempt from the order, the FMC said, but would need to show that the requirements would lead to an “undue hardship or other condition rendering compliance with such a requirement impracticable.”

The FMC is specifically seeking feedback on whether U.S. cargo congestion warrants the emergency order, whether the information sharing would “alleviate” the congestion and how the commission should “scope” the order, including how long it should remain in effect and whether it should apply to only certain geographic areas.

The commission is considering issuing the order because of the “rapid shift in cargo volumes driven by consumer demand” that began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. It said longer container dwell times at marine terminals have “led to inefficiencies, including delays in vessel berthing and motor carrier services at U.S. ports.” Although there have been a “variety of strategies employed by industry participants to reduce congestion,” and container dwell times have lowered in recent months, the FMC said the metrics remain higher than pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.