Federal Filing Requirements for Logistics Companies Eased

This post was written by Matthew J. Thomas.

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), which regulates US international ocean shipping services, has made life easier for thousands of logistics companies and their import/export customers.

The FMC regulates a broad range of “ocean transportation intermediaries,” the logistics providers and forwarders who connect importers and exporters with global shipping lines. Many of these (called “non-vessel-operating common carriers or “NVOCCs” ) act as resellers of ocean transportation services. NVOCCs buy space in bulk from vessel operators, then resell it, often bundled with additional services, to manufacturers and retailers.

On February 16th the FMC announced a plan to waive longstanding requirements that licensed NVOCCs publish their pricing in public freight tariffs and file all individual customer contracts with the FMC. Cutting these anachronistic filing rules will help over 3300 companies, according to the FMC, and should help encourage more individualized negotiations for international transportation solutions. The changes should take effect later this spring, but logistics companies still will need to comply with FMC licensing, bonding and recordkeeping rules.

The FMC cited the White House’s latest mandate for agencies to review rules and reduce burdens, set out in President Obama’s January 18, 2011 Executive Order 13563, and signaled a willingness to consider further cuts.

Hopefully the FMC’s zeal for streamlining will be contagious, given the rigorous regulatory landscape for logistics providers. Companies providing integrated supply chain solutions must navigate an impressive array of agencies, including the FMC, the Department of Transportation (air freight forwarding), Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (motor carrier forwarding and broking), Transportation Security Administration (facility security) and Customs and Border Protection (carrier bonding and manifest filing). With additional requirements and regulators for dual-use goods, arms, food, drugs, and hazardous materials, compliance planning quickly becomes an exceptionally sophisticated undertaking.