FMC implements OTI oversight rule changes

The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) published a final rule on Feb. 20 that gives the agency increased authority over licensed ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs), including ocean freight forwarders and non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOs).

The FMC’s five commissioners voted unanimously on Jan. 15 to proceed with finalizing the rule, which implements requirements for the agency under the 2018 Frank LoBiondo Coast Guard Authorization Act.

The final rule clarifies that persons who present themselves to shippers as OTIs must be licensed with the FMC and meet certain financial responsibility requirements.

The rule makes clear that OTI licensing and financial responsibility requirements do not apply to a person performing OTI services on behalf of an OTI for whom it is a disclosed agent.

The LoBiondo Act authorized the FMC to expand the prohibition on common carriers knowingly and willfully accepting or transporting cargo for OTIs that do not have a tariff or do not meet financial responsibility requirements.

Under the rule, comments submitted to the FMC regarding filed ocean common carrier and marine terminal operator agreements will also now be confidential.

In addition, it includes the LoBiondo Act’s authority for a provision on “nonpublic collaborative discussions” between FMC commissioners.

“With respect to the amendments to the regulations governing OTI licensing, financial responsibility and general duties, the commission recognizes that the majority of businesses affected by these proposed changes [OTIs] qualify as small entities under the guidelines of the Small Business Administration,” the FMC said. “The final rule will not, however, result in a significant economic impact on these entities.”