Federal Maritime Commission
For years, Congress failed at attempts to create a federal agency to regulate transportation inside American territorial waters. After numerous legislative impasses, the Federal Maritime Commission came into being during the summer of 1961. The federal agency has gone through numerous transformations over the past fifty years.
As of 2011, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regulates waterborne foreign and domestic offshore commerce conducted in US waters. The Commissions ensures that U.S. international trade is open to all nations on fair and equitable terms and that each nation abides by American tariff and excise laws. The Recent expansion of FMC powers included the protection against unauthorized waterborne commerce activity. Moreover, the FMC now reviews agreements made by groups of common carriers, ensures that carriers charge rates on file with the FMC, and guarantees equal treatment to carriers and those who ship their goods.
A chairman and four commissioners appointed by the President of the United States comprise the leadership structure of the FMC
On August 12, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that established the Federal Maritime Commission as an independent agency. Under the order, U.S. shipping laws were defined as regulatory and promotional. The executive order mandated that the FMC administer the regulatory provisions of shipping laws. Before the establishment of the FMC, the Federal Maritime Board-regulated ocean commerce and promoted the United States Merchant Marine. Congressional leaders wanted to separate the regulatory and promotional components of the Federal Maritime Board. The reorganization plan created the FMC to administer the regulatory provisions of shipping laws.
The Shipping Act of 1984 initiated a fundamental change in the regulatory powers of the FMC. Subsequent regulatory legislation in 1998 signaled an even more significant paradigm shift in shipping regulations. The principle statutes administered by the Commission include 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. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 amended many of the statutory provisions of the previous shipping related legislation.
Shipping Laws Enforcement
The Commission and the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation split FMC enforcement. The Federal Maritime Commission oversees all regulatory laws, including those that govern specific shipments and requirements. The laws serve to monitor and maintain proper shipping policies
On the other hand, The Maritime Administration enforces promotional laws that affect the United States Merchant Marine. In times of peace, the Merchant Marine may participate in the transportation of passengers and goods, though this does not usually include moving shipments. Promotional laws govern the fleet itself and provide regulations regarding the fleet's visibility.
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The Federal Maritime Commission's Mission
Despite having its promotional regulatory powers taken away, the FMC retains vast control over waterborne commerce. Congress has delineated the purview of the commission to include the implementation of regulations on the shipping industry, licensing of marine terminal operators and ocean transportation intermediaries, and creation and enforcement of international shipping laws. FMC analysts process and review agreements and service contracts, review common carriers’ privately published tariff systems for accuracy and monitor the laws of foreign governments that have a predatory impact on United States shipping interests. The last mandate has come under increased scrutiny during a time when the United States faces record trade deficits.
Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the FMC has broadened its reach by closely monitoring foreign ships that port in American cities. This means the agency enforces special regulatory requirements applicable to ocean carriers owned or controlled by foreign governments. In addition, the FMC has stepped up its enforcement of the cruise line industry by managing the financial affairs of passenger ship operators, especially when a passenger ship operator incurs damage to one of its vessels. Passenger ship operators must demonstrate evidence that they have adequate financial coverage for casualty and non-performance.
Streamlining the agency’s sphere of influence has allowed the FMC to devote resources that protect US shipping and maritime trade interests. The FMC monitors activities of ocean common carriers, marine terminal operators, conferences, ports, and ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs) who operate in the U.S. foreign commerce to ensure they maintain just and reasonable practices. FMC Commissioners have recently stepped up a trade monitoring and enforcement program designed to assist regulated entities in achieving compliance and to detect and appropriately remedy malpractices and violations set forth in section 10 of the Shipping Act.
Importance of the Federal Maritime Commission Number
The enhanced regulation of the American shipping industry underscores the importance of the Federal Maritime Commission Number. The assigned number reassures customers in case a shipment falls behind schedule. The accreditation ensures the FMC will deal with issues professionally in the most expedient manner possible. Additional benefits of having a Federal Maritime Commission Number include the regulation of storage charges so customers do not overpay due to unethical practices. The number also guarantees professionalism in dealing with loss and damage of property. Essentially, the Federal Maritime Commission Number, much like the United States Department of Transportation number, is in place to assist in identifying reputable moving companies and transportation providers.
Of all the mandates directed by Congress, perhaps the most important to the continued success of waterborne commerce is the FMC’s issuance of a number of commercial shipping interests. Customers can rest assured that any entity with a Federal Maritime Commission Number conducts business in an ethical manner.