Federal Maritime Commission Issues Industry Advisory on Charge Complaints

2 min

On June 16, 2022, President Biden signed into law the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 ("OSRA 2022"), which amended the Shipping Act of 1984 ("the Shipping Act"). Among the various amendments, OSRA 2022 included a new section for Charge Complaints, which established an expedited process for parties disputing charges assessed by common carriers. See 46 U.S.C. § 41310. Upon receipt of a Charge Complaint, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) shall promptly initiate its investigation and may ultimately order a refund of charges paid or impose a civil penalty.

The FMC recently issued an Industry Advisory for parties interested in filing Charge Complaints and outlined the following steps:

  1. Identify the common carrier.
  2. Specify the alleged violations of 46 U.S.C. §§ 41102 and/or 41104(a).
  3. Provide supporting documentation (e.g., invoices, bill of lading numbers, evidence of whether the charge(s) have been paid, etc.).
  4. Confirm that the disputed charge was incurred on or after the enactment of OSRA 2022.
  5. Submit all relevant materials to chargecomplaints@fmc.gov.

While the FMC's Industry Advisory notes that parties must confirm the incurred date, this issue remains uncertain, given the statutory language of OSRA 2022, the legislative intent during the drafting process, and the adoption of the FMC's "Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention Under the Shipping Act." See 85 Fed. Reg. 29,638 (May 18, 2020). Furthermore, stakeholders will likely request additional clarity on this point from the FMC and from the members of Congress who were instrumental in drafting and passing OSRA 2022.

We continue to monitor developments impacting the maritime trade sector. If you have any questions on filing Charge Complaints or how OSRA 2022 may impact your business, please reach out to Venable's International Trade and Logistics Group for guidance.