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FMC chairman Daniel Maffei. Photo: FMC

The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has announced it is investigating surcharges imposed by eight liner shipping operators following complaints from shippers that the charges were not properly instituted.

Complaints from shippers have increased as rates and surcharges have soared over the past year.

Most recently, home décor provider MCS filed a complaint alleging antitrust infringements and detention and demurrage (D&D) charges levied by lines, naming Cosco and MSC.

Yesterday, the FMC announced that its bureau of enforcement had asked eight carriers to provide details regarding congestion or related surcharges implemented or announced.

The eight – CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Matson, MSC, OOCL, SM Line and Zim – have until 13 August to respond.

The FMC said: “In reviewing ocean carrier responses, the commission will determine if surcharges were implemented following proper notice; if the purpose of the surcharge was clearly defined; if it is clear what event or condition triggers the surcharge; and is it clear what event or condition has been identified that would terminate the surcharge.

“The commission can initiate enforcement actions for improperly established tariffs.”

Shipping lines announced a number of surcharges as congestion and equipment shortages took hold in the US, most recently Israel-based Zim’s congestion surcharge of $5,000 per container, due to be implemented tomorrow, CMA CGM’s $1,000 congestion surcharge for LA effective 7 August and Hapag-Lloyd’s value-added surcharge of $5,000 for all US and Canadian ports, effective 15 August.

FMC chairman Daniel Maffei said: “The Covid-related spike in demand for imports has pushed cargo rates to record highs. Now, we hear increasing reports of ocean carriers assessing new additional fees, such as ‘congestion surcharges’, with little notice or explanation.”

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