Industry Colleagues Call for the Creation of a Federal Maritime Regulator for Australia

Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) joined industry colleagues in a meeting with the Hon Dan Tehan (minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment) on Friday 30th July 2021 to follow up the meeting that was held on 2nd June 2021 regarding the further deterioration in shipping capacity and the rapid escalation in shipping costs.

FTA and APSA again have re-stated its call for the creation of a new federal maritime regulator, similar to the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to facilitate open and competitive international trade while safeguarding the interests of Australian shippers (exporters, importers, and freight forwarders).

If you aren’t aware of what the FMC does, their mission statement reads: “Ensure a competitive and reliable international ocean transportation supply system that supports the U.S economy and protects the public from unfair and deceptive practices.”

The FMC ensures competitive and efficient ocean transportation services for the shipping public by:

  • Reviewing and monitoring agreements among ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators (MTOs) serving the U.S. foreign ocean borne trades to ensure that they do not cause substantial increases in transportation costs or decreases in transportation services
  • Maintaining and reviewing confidentially filed service contracts to guard against detrimental effects to shipping
  • Providing a forum for exporters, importers, and other members of the shipping public to obtain relief from ocean shipping practices or disputes that impede the flow of commerce
  • Ensuring common carriers’ tariff rates and charges are published in automated tariff systems and electronically available to the public
  • Monitoring rates, charges, and rules of government-owned or controlled carriers to ensure they are just and reasonable
  • Taking action to address unfavorable conditions caused by foreign governments or business practices in U.S.-foreign shipping trades

The FMC protects the public from financial harm and contributes to the integrity and security of the U.S. supply chain and transportation system by:

  • Helping resolve disputes involving the shipment of cargo, personal or household goods, or disputes between cruise vessel operators and passengers
  • Investigating and ruling on complaints regarding rates, charges, classifications, and practices of common carriers, MTOs, and Ocean Transportation Intermediaries (OTIs), that violate the Shipping Act of 1984
  • Licensing OTIs with appropriate character and adequate financial responsibility
  • Identifying and holding regulated entities accountable for mislabeling cargo shipped to or from the United States
  • Ensuring that cruise lines maintain financial responsibility to pay claims for personal injury or death, and to reimburse passengers for failure to perform the cruise

FTA and APSA recommend that the following policy considerations be included in the scope of a formal Federal Government led review:

  • repeal of Part X CCA forcing shipping lines to operate more closely to those competition laws faced by other businesses involved in Australian commerce;
  • A focus on exclusive dealings to ensure that shipping line end-to-end logistics services do not lessen competition;
  • mandate of minimum shipping services ensuring essential export access to market;
  • shipping line adherence to acceptable notification periods on service and cost variations;
  • the scope of the National Transport Commission (NTC) review of Terminal Access Charges be expanded to examine regulation to force stevedores and empty container parks to cost recover directly against their commercial client (shipping line) rather than via third party transport operators;
  • implement measures similar to the current US FMC review to ensure fair and reasonable container detention practices are administered by shipping lines for the dehire of empty containers; and
  • initiate a formal waterfront industrial relations review to provide immediate and continued business continuity for what is an ‘essential service’ and our international gateway for major supply chains.

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