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The Federal Maritime Commission received high marks for its proposal to allow non-vessel-operating common carriers to sign confidential service contracts with shippers. The trade has responded favorably to granting NVOs an exemption from terms of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The law required NVOs to transport cargo under tariff rates, leaving confidential contracting the purview of ocean carriers.
All well and good, companies and industry groups said in comments filed with the FMC, although most of the commenters added a "but." The proposal allows only one NVO to participate in each confidential "NVOCC service agreement" with shippers, and shippers associations with NVO members may not enter NSAs. Many commenters said the ban treated shippers associations unfairly. They also argued that there was no basis to commission concerns that permitting agreements between NVOs would afford them antitrust immunity.
The trade is willing to give the new rule a chance, and fine-tune it later. "We think this is a great first step for NVOs," said Joseph Saggese, executive director of the North Atlantic Alliance Association. "More good things start with a great step, and these little things will work themselves out over the long term."
The commission will meet Dec. 14 to discuss the proposal, and it's likely that it may …