Federal Maritime Commission

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Seal of the Federal Maritime Commission

The United States Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is an independent federal agency, based in Washington, D.C., responsible for the regulation of oceanborne international transportation of the U.S.[1]

Mission[edit]

The FMC:

• Regulates certain activities of international shipping lines (called "ocean common carriers"), marine terminals operators, and ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs) who operate in the U.S. foreign commerce

• Oversees the financial responsibility of cruise ship lines and other passenger ship operators, to ensure they have the resources to pay compensation for personal injuries or non-performance

• Monitors the laws and practices of foreign governments which could have a discriminatory or otherwise adverse impact on the U.S. shipping industry and U.S. maritime trade, and administers bilateral trade sanctions to persuade foreign governments to remove adverse conditions

• Enforces special regulatory requirements applicable to shipping lines owned or controlled by foreign governments (so-called “controlled carriers”)

• Reviews and regulates agreements between shipping lines and/or marine terminals (which enjoy statutory immunity from the antitrust laws) and service contracts between shipping lines and their customers

• Licenses and regulates ocean transportation intermediaries in the U.S., and ensures all maintain evidence of financial responsibility. These intermediaries include freight forwarders, who make bookings and process paperwork for shipper customers (roughly analogous to a travel agent for freight), and "non-vessel-operating common carriers", who act as resellers of space on shipping lines' vessels.

History[edit]

The FMC was established as an independent regulatory agency by Reorganization Plan No. 7, effective August 12, 1961. Prior to that time, the United States Federal Maritime Board was responsible for both the regulation of ocean commerce and the promotion of the United States Merchant Marine. Under the reorganization plan, the shipping laws of the U.S. were separated into two categories, regulatory and promotional. The newly created FMC was charged with the administration of the regulatory provisions of the shipping laws, while the promotional role was vested in the Maritime Administration (now part of the U.S. Department of Transportation).

The passage of the Shipping Act of 1984 brought about a major deregulatory change in the regulatory regime facing shipping companies operating in the U.S. foreign commerce. The subsequent passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, with its further deregulatory amendments and modifications to the Shipping Act of 1984, represented another pro-market shift in shipping regulation. The principle statutes or statutory provisions administered by the Commission are: the Shipping Act of 1984, the Foreign Shipping Practices Act of 1988, section 19 of the Merchant Marine Act, 1920, and Public Law 89-777.

Most of these statutes were amended by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) of 1998,[2] which took effect on May 1, 1999.[3]

See also[edit]

Responsibility for U.S. merchant shipping has been held by many agencies since 1917. For a history, see United States Shipping Board.

References[edit]