FMC tracks COVID-19-induced supply chain bottlenecks

On March 31, the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) authorized Commissioner Rebecca Dye to begin working with representatives from the container-shipping industry to identify “operational solutions to cargo delivery challenges” caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The FMC order, known as Fact Finding 29 International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, highlighted the commission’s statutory mandate to “ensure efficient and economic transportation system for ocean commerce.”

The order also stated that “the commission has determined there is a compelling need to convene new Supply Chain Innovation Teams to address these challenges.”

“The United States depends on reliable international ocean freight delivery to support the economic security of our country,” Dye said in a statement. “This initiative is an effort by the Commission to do everything we can to eliminate pressing problems in the freight delivery system.”

Dye will ask leading industry executives to participate in the innovation teams. These individuals will represent all facets of the ocean cargo system including public port authorities, marine terminal operators, shippers, ocean transportation intermediaries, liner shipping companies, drayage trucking companies, longshore labor representatives, rail officials, and chassis providers, she said.

Dye said she has already received information from small and mid-sized shippers in the Pacific Northwest that are currently experiencing lack of cargo storage space once their containers are offloaded.

“The Pacific Northwest Seaport Alliance has identified sites in their complex that can be used to stage cargo and containers off terminals. I applaud their initiative,” she said. “We are calling on everyone engaged in moving ocean cargo to do what they can in this effort.”

Dye most recently utilized these industry-based innovation teams during her investigation into the practice of when ocean carriers and marine terminal operations may fairly assess demurrage and detention charges against shippers for timely pick-up and delivery of containers at the pier. A final rule regarding the fairness of demurrage and detention charges, based on Dye’s Fact Finding 28 investigation, is expected to be published by the FMC soon.

“Commissioner Dye is respected by the stakeholder community,” said FMC Chairman Michael Khouri. “Her relationships with industry leaders will allow her to quickly reassemble Innovation Teams to assess, gauge, anticipate and respond to the disruptions in the global ocean supply chain.”

 Khouri also said the need for a prompt response to supply chain events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, supports the commission establishing a standing advisory board of industry stakeholders.

Sen. Roger Wicker, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, had suggested this type of advisory board for the FMC. “I wholeheartedly support the proposal,” Khouri said.

Individuals seeking to provide information to Dye for Fact Finding 29 may submit those in writing via email,