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The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has ordered Maersk-owned operator Hamburg Süd to pay US furniture shipper OJ Commerce (OJC) $9.8m after refusing contracted cargo space for its containers.

FMC found the carrier in violation of provision 41104(a)(10) “refusal to deal”, ruling it unjustly shut-out the Florida-based complainant from contract agreements – but awarded the shipper only around 10% of the $100m compensation it claimed.

The commission reduced the award, finding that “total actual injury” to OJC by Hamburg Süd to be $4.9m. However, because the carrier ran foul of the US Shipping Act, it must pay double that.

The act’s provision 41104(a)(10) prohibits carriers from “…retaliating against a shipper” for filing a complaint against them, or using a different carrier, “by refusing… cargo space accommodations when available, or resorting to other unfair or unjustly discriminatory methods”.

The FMC upheld that an email exchange between HSNA SVP Juergen Pump and cargo flow specialist Kevin Li demonstrated that Hamburg Süd “deliberately denied space” for 15 40ft OJC containers, regardless of whether space was available, “in retaliation for potential litigation”, thereby refusing to honour contractual obligations.

“Because violation [of anti-retaliation provision 41104(a)] was knowing and wilful, additional damages may be awarded,” the court ruled. “Accordingly, OJC is awarded reparations of $9,843,766.40.”

The Loadstar has previously reported that more than $1m of disputed detention & demurrage (D&D) and other charges to shippers and forwarders has been waived or refunded since the passage of the US’s new Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA 22). One European shipper had incurred some $289,000 in charges, thanks to the “incompetence” of another European carrier giant, Hapag-Lloyd.

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