The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, Inc. (NCBFAA) filed a Petition with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) seeking to have the agency use its authority to exempt NVOCCs from the requirement of publishing rate tariffs. If granted, NVOCCs would no longer be required to publish in tariff form any rates negotiated with individual shippers as long as those agreed upon rates were somehow memorialized in written form that could range from a formal contract to a simple exchange of emails.
“One aspect of current FMC regulatory policy that carries undue and totally unnecessary burdens is the requirement that NVOCCs publish and maintain rate tariffs,” NCBFAA President Mary Jo Muoio said. Describing them as “anachronistic regulatory requirements,” she pointed out that these published rate tariffs “are almost never reviewed or used by customers, that NVOCC rates are almost uniformly negotiated individually with individual customers and only later published in tariff form, and that the cost of tariff publication needlessly increases NVOCC costs, reducing their flexibility and competitiveness.”
The Association urged the FMC to use its exemption authority to grant the requested relief, which would incorporate the following principles:
- The exemption would be voluntary, rather than mandatory. In other words, shippers or NVOCCs that preferred to continue to use published rate tariffs could continue to do so.
- The exemption would relate only to rate tariffs; rules tariffs would still need to be published and maintained.
- Negotiated NVOCC rates would from this point forward be governed solely by contract law considerations.
- NVOCCs with NVOCC Service Agreements (NSAs) would continue to file those with the FMC.
- To qualify, these negotiated rates would need to be documented.
- The FMC’s staff would continue to have access to these negotiated agreements and the files of NVOCCs.
- The exemption would not be construed so as to convey antitrust immunity on NVOCCs.
- The exemption would be applicable only for licensed or registered NVOCCs; companies unlawfully providing NVOCC services would not be able to properly engage in these activities.
Headquartered in Washington, DC, the NCBFAA represents nearly 800 member companies with 100,000 employees in international trade - the nation’s leading freight forwarders, customs brokers, ocean transportation intermediaries (OTIs), NVOCCs and air cargo agents, serving more than 250,000 importers and exporters. Established in 1897 in New York, NCBFAA is the effective national voice of the industry. Through its various committees, counsel and representatives, the Association maintains a close watch over legislative and regulatory issues that affect its members. It keeps them informed of these and other related issues through its weekly Monday Morning eBriefing and various meetings and conferences throughout the year.