The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has proposed regulating how shipping companies charge customers for delays in picking up and dropping off containers.
An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) approved by the agency, asks for public comments to help set ‘reasonable’ standards for the billing demurrage and detention, after dramatic increases in the practices, amid worldwide congestion and delays affecting the sea freight industry – and associated complaints from affected customers.
Demurrage is charged when full containers are not picked up customers within a specified time limit; and detention when customers are late returning empty containers to a terminal.
The FMC said that demurrage and detention charges should ‘serve the primary purpose of incentivising the movement of cargo and promoting freight fluidity’ and that such charges have ‘substantially increased’ during the past two years.
Announcing the consultation, it said: ‘Specifically, the commission is considering the merits of establishing regulations mandating certain minimum information be included in bills issued for demurrage and detention charges and prescribing the maximum period in which an invoice can be sent.’
Potential new rules could include the requirement for additional information – including ensuring the bill is being issued to the correct party, specifying the time period for demurrage and detention and including information on the dispute resolution process.