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DC Velocity, a print and online publication for distribution center managers and executives, recently ran a story on the November court ruling that requires the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to allow relationships between licensed and unlicensed ocean intermediaries. Venable partner Ashley Craig was quoted extensively in the story, which appeared in the December 10, 2009 online edition of the publication.

The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit effectively overturned FMC regulations barring a licensed intermediary from conducting business with an unlicensed firm. According to the story, the ruling is a blow to the FMC and to the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which in a post-9/11 world has striven for greater visibility of the companies responsible for moving goods to and from the United States.

According to Craig, the CBP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, "may now be on the outside looking in." CBP had opposed changes to the FMC regulation.

The ruling may also open carriers, third parties, and shippers up to greater liability and security risk because the field of potential shipping agents includes many who are unknown to U.S. authorities, said Craig. At the same time, the ruling may give the entire supply chain greater flexibility to conduct commerce. Craig commented that third parties can expand their coverage and service capabilities through new agency relationships, while shippers could benefit from increased service options.