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2008 was a dramatic year for the Federal Maritime Commission, and 2009 no doubt will be newsworthy. In April 2008, after Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, called the FMC “broken and dysfunctional,” FMC Commissioner Joseph E. Brennan called the commission a “four-headed monster.” Then, shortly after the resignation of FMC Commissioner A. Paul Anderson in May, the FMC quickly transformed itself into the Cerberus of the shipping industry and began to bark and show some sharp teeth.

In May, the commission resumed monthly public meetings, and these will continue this year. It began an investigation into activities of carriers that dominate the trade between the U.S. West Coast and Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands — an investigation that continues. The FMC’s highly publicized investigation of the new clean-trucks programs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will continue to make news. In the FMC’s view, certain anti-competitive provisions of these programs violate the Shipping Act of 1984. The commission took the unprecedented step of filing a complaint with the U.S. District Court in Washington to stop the ports from moving forward with trucking concession requirements that mandate exclusive use of employee-drivers.

We predict this trend will continue in 2009. With Congress keeping a close watch on the FMC, a new administration in the White House and a struggling U.S. economy, we foresee a continued revitalization of the FMC and a renewal of its mission to protect and regulate the U.S. shipping industry.

The commission this year will likely welcome a new commissioner and a new chairman. These key positions are likely to be filled with individuals who will keep the agency growling.

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