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FMC focusing on independent action, vessel sharing agreements and container pooling arrangements.
Acting on evidence gathered from some 60 shipper witnesses over the last few months, the Federal Maritime Commission has decided to dig deeper into the activities of Trans-Atlantic Conference Agreement carriers.
In addition to the agency 's general fact-finding probe, the commission has launched three investigations targeting TACA's independent action record, vessel sharing agreements, and container pooling arrangements.
While the conference's reputation for refusing independent action is well known, and its web of vessel sharing agreements generated widespread concern during the last round of agency hearings, TACA's container pool activities bring yet another dimension into the picture.
More Issues. On top of this latest development, the transatlantic conference could soon face even more questions, FMC Chairman William D. Hathaway told American Shipper.
Charles L. Haslup, the FMC's lead investigator in the TACA case, was more direct. He said the three new issues "are very significant," and that others may emerge soon. "It's very unlikely that this is the end of the string," Haslup said.
Just when the commission will broaden the TACA probe remains to be seen. New developments probably won't be known until mid-January, when the fact-finding hearings are expected to end with testimony from TACA officials.
But even more significant is the expectation that the commission will hear from shippers who will disclose the results of their 1995 service contract negotiations with the conference.
Information from the shippers could lead to additional FMC investigations.
Before the FMC began its fact-finding investigation of TACA, the commission was criticized by shippers who said FMC wasn't aggressive enough.
Hathaway said, however, that the FMC's decision to step up the TAA/TACA investigation was "absolutely not" designed to deflect political pressure. "If someone comes in with substantial evidence, we have to move on it. We are not being pressured by anybody," Hathaway said.
In an official statement, Hathaway stressed the urgency and the seriousness of the situation: "The commission decided to commence these three separate ... proceedings at this time, rather than await the results of the final report in Fact Finding Investigation No. 21, because of the seriousness of the issues and the possibility of harm to the shipping public..." …