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FMC Seeking Comments on Potential Changes Related to Carrier Automated Tariffs

The Federal Maritime Commission is seeking comments on potential changes to its rules for Carrier Automated Tariffs, including whether carrier tariffs should be available “free of charge” and if the definition of co-loading should be revised to apply only to “less than container loads.” Other proposed changes described in the rule, released May 9, would allow non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs) to “cross reference certain aspects of other carriers’ terms in their tariffs,” clarify NVOCCs’ ability to “reflect increases in certain charges passed-through by other entities without notice,” require that documentation must be annotated with the names of all NVOCCs involved in a shipping transaction, and “make other miscellaneous updates and clarifications.”

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The rule proposes “major changes” meant to “ease requirements” for carriers and shippers and increase transparency in their transactions, the FMC said. Comments on the rule, which builds on an advance notice of proposed rulemaking issued by the commission in April 2021, are due June 9.

One proposed change would require ocean carriers to publish their tariffs free of charge to their website. Although seven of the 10 leading carriers serving the U.S. already do this, the FMC said “universal free tariff publication” would help traders by giving more pricing information to shippers.

Another change to revise the definition of co-loading would better “align Commission regulations with current industry practices,” the FMC said. An additional change that would require the documentation accompanying containers to be annotated with the names of all NVOCCs associated with the cargo will better serve beneficial cargo owners (BCOs),” the FMC said.

“This annotation requirement ensures that, for either co-loaded cargo or full container loads, the BCO has the information required to contact any NVOCC which may have control of its cargo,” the agency said. “This information is critical to the BCO, particularly in cases of failure to perform by the NVOCC with which the BCO contracted to transport its cargo.”

Other proposed changes would clarify when regulations “are expressing a requirement or obligation,” clarify the definition of “bulk cargo” and clarify the consequences faced by carriers that don’t clearly publish a tariff in an automated tariff system and provide the location of that tariff to the FMC. The FMC also proposed changes to its wording surrounding its tariff contents, standard tariff terminology, tariff limitations, exemptions and exceptions, and more.