When Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Richard Lidinsky looks across the U.S.-Canada border, he sees a “twilight zone.”
Lidinsky is referring to what he describes as a blind spot in FMC oversight of service contracts. He says the FMC has origin-to-destination visibility of intermodal shipments via U.S. ports but not for the land leg of shipments via Canadian or Mexican ports.
He said West Coast members of Congress want the FMC to look into whether U.S. ports are unfairly disadvantaged by shipments via Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and that the same issues apply to other ports in Canada and Mexico.
No complaint has been filed, Lidinsky emphasized. He said the FMC merely has been asked to examine the situation. He said questions may include the impact of issues such as the harbor maintenance tax, different levels of container inspections and possible subsidy of rail moves.
“We’re not trying to build a wall,” he said. “We’re just trying to clarify the situation to ensure there’s a level playing field. I realize it’s awkward to do this kind of thing with our largest trading partner and neighbor, but it’s a regulatory situation that should be clarified, and the sooner we can do it, the better off we’ll be.”
Lidinsky said the FMC may take one of three paths – a formal fact-finding inquiry, a wide-open notice of inquiry, or a narrowly focused investigation. He said he’ll consult with other FMC members on which course to take and expects a decision soon after Labor Day.