Simplified carrier service contract rule takes effect May 2017

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A new rule simplifying container line service contracts and non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC) service arrangements will go into effect May 5, US maritime regulators announced Thursday.

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) voted unanimously on March 6 to scrap a historic rule requiring container lines and NVOCCs to file service contracts with the agency before they go into effect, giving parties 30 days to file with the FMC. The original rulemaking announcement, however, did not include the new rule’s effective date.

Carriers and NVOCCs will also have additional time under the new rule to correct technical data transmission errors from 48 hours to 30 days and service contract errors from 45 days to 180 days.

All changes to service contracts must be agreed upon by both parties, carrier and shipper, before they can go into effect and before they can be filed with the FMC.

There is an important distinction that should be made between service contracts and tariffs. General rate increases (GRIs), which are published and not filed with the FMC, fall under tariff category and still function under the same set of rules as before.

If carriers announce a GRI, they still must publish it, and there still is a 30-day period before it can go into effect. This only impacts increases. Decreases do not need to be delayed by 30 days.




Robert Barceló

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