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April 15, 2024
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Container Lines Settle with FMC for $2.6 Million


Two container shipping lines, Ocean Network Express (ONE) and Wan Hai Lines, have agreed to pay a total of $2.65 million in civil penalties to resolve seperate allegations of misconduct brought by the Federal Maritime Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance (BEIC).

The BEIC was created last July as part of a reorganization that combined the FMC’s investigative and prosecution functions following the passing of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA).

In April, ONE reached a compromise agreement with the FMC to settle allegations that it violated U.S. law by charging detention fees when appointments were unavailable during allocated free time for equipment return. As part of the agreement, ONE agreed to pay a civil penalty of $1.7 million.

Notably, the agreement introduced a new provision requiring ONE to provide restitution to affected shippers in the form of refunds and waivers. ONE also affirmed its commitment to comply with the OSRA and the Interpretative Rule on Detention and Demurrage.

In a separate case, Wan Hai entered into a settlement agreement with the Commission to address allegations that it violated U.S. law by not adhering to fair and reasonable practices concerning charges for returning empty containers.

Wan Hai agreed to pay $950,000 in civil penalties and refunded all impacted shippers for the detention charges collected. The company also implemented corrective measures to prevent future violations and ensure compliance with the FMC’s Interpretive Rule on Detention and Demurrage.

FMC Chairman Daniel B. Maffei commended the Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations, and Compliance for their efforts in securing meaningful civil penalties and providing relief to affected shippers.

“The agreements being announced today send a clear message to international shipping community that ocean carriers must fully comply with the U.S. legal obligations,” said Chairman Maffei.

The payment of civil penalties by ONE and Wan Hai follows a similar case in June 2022, where Hapag Lloyd AG paid $2 million to settle allegations of violating U.S. law related to the assessment of detention charges.

The FMC emphasized that it’s important to distinguish that a compromise agreement, such as the one with ONE, is reached before formal enforcement action by the FMC, while a settlement agreement, like the one with Wan Hai, concludes an ongoing enforcement proceeding. In both cases, neither ONE nor Wan Hai admitted to any violation of the law.

The last settlement comes as the FMC seperately marks $1 million in disputed charges waived or refunded through the Charge Complaint process, established by the OSRA. The milestone was reached on May 1, just over 10 months after the OSRA became law. The OSRA authorized the FMC to promptly investigate “information concerning complaints about charges assessed by a common carrier” and order refunds and/or penalties for charges that do not comply with relevant regulations.

The civil penalties paid by the carriers are directed to the General Fund of the U.S. Treasury, with no revenue received by the Federal Maritime Commission itself.


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