The FMC seeks shippers’ feedback on past port congestion



Since the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) was implemented, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has developed several new programs to assist in better understanding the current state of maritime shipping.  On August 15, 2022 the FMC posted a RFI in the Federal Register seeking feedback from the shipping industry to better understand if the past port congestion created a potential emergency situation. 

At the beginning of the COVID–19 pandemic, the demand for worldwide ocean transportation services decreased significantly as lockdowns were imposed globally and people were hesitant to engage in normal economic activities. Accordingly, ocean common carriers cancelled many voyages, and the supply of ocean transportation services decreased.

Over the last 2 years, there have been a variety of strategies employed by industry participants to reduce congestion throughout the U.S. Ocean transportation system. For example, some carriers have diverted vessel services away from the most congested port areas to alleviate severe cargo congestion at major U.S. ports. This shift, however, has often resulted in increased congestion at previously non- or less- congested U.S. port areas or regions. Total U.S. port congestion, measured by the number of containers on ships waiting to berth, average ship waiting time at key U.S. ports, and container dwell time have all decreased in recent months. Relevant metrics, however, remain higher than pre- pandemic levels. 

In view of these factors and consistent with the requirements set out in Section 18 of OSRA 2022, the Commission is seeking public comments on the following three areas: 

  • Whether congestion of the carriage of goods has created an emergency situation of a magnitude such that there exists a substantial, adverse effect on the competitiveness and reliability of the international ocean transportation supply system. If so, please explain why and provide examples or data to support your view. If not, please explain why and provide examples or data to support your view.  
  • Whether an emergency order pursuant to Section 18 of OSRA 2022 would alleviate or improve such an emergency situation—and if so, why, and if not, why not; and  

The appropriate scope (duration and geographic) of such an emergency order, if the Commission were to issue such an order and the basis for that scope.  

How do I prepare and submit comments?  

If you have comments, then you should take this opportunity to use your voice to let the FMC know of your experience and knowledge when it comes to maritime shipping. 

You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. 22–19, by email to: For comments, include in the subject line: ‘‘Docket No. 22–19, Request for Information.’’ Comments should be attached to the email as a Microsoft  Word or text-searchable PDF document.  

How do I submit confidential business information?  

The Commission will provide confidential treatment for identified confidential information to the extent allowed by law. A transmittal letter requesting confidential treatment that identifies the specific information in the comments for which protection is sought and demonstrates that the information is a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information.  

A confidential copy of your comments, consisting of the complete filing with a cover page marked ‘‘Confidential-Restricted,’’ and the confidential material clearly marked on each page.  

If you have any questions regarding this opportunity, please do not hesitate to contact me so that I can assist you. 

Sources: Federal Register, BDP International