The Federal Maritime Commission approved additional rules dealing with serv ice contract problems that were unforeseen when they became law with passage of the 1984 Shipping Act.
The agency's action during its regular meeting Wednesday did not involve extension of new rate concessions to older contract signatories, so-called most-favored-shipper clauses, which major containership operators are seeking to restrict in a separate proceeding.The Wednesday action, involving Docket 86-6, was unanimous.
The members approved modifications of the agency's originally proposed changes, except for section 581.7. That provision involves reassessing cargo that moved under service contract terms but under which the shipper subsequently failed to fulfill his volume commitments.
That was removed for further consideration.
Commission member Thomas F. Moakley said he wanted to do a lot more exploratory work on that section.
That was my greatest concern with the proposed rules, which had been reworked by the staff based on extensive public comment, Mr. Moakley said. No other objections were raised.
The commissioners also agreed to update their rules governing filing requirements for domestic operators' agreements. Details of these proposed rules will be made public soon.
The agency, with little debate, also rejected a petition filed a year ago by the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America.
That group sought to make a number of changes in forwarder rules.
The staff said the petition mostly covered matters the agency had disposed of before.
FMC General Counsel Robert D. Bourgoin said the service contract rules were intended to refine the agency's regulations.
One of the concerns, he said, was that service contracts not become so flexible as to call into question their status under the 1984 act.
He said the commission clearly has the authority and responsibility to maintain the integrity of service contracts to insure they are not simply a 'device or means' to unlawfully circumvent the otherwise applicable tariff rates.
Mr. Moakley, in questioning the new rules, said he was simply not sure at this time whether it is broken and needs fixing. He was referring to provisions providing for readjustment of rates should the contract shipper fail to meet his volume requirement.
The agency staff reported that about 75 percent of the service contracts that had been checked and found potentially liable for enforcement action involved failure to meet minimum cargo commitments.
Mr. Moakley said this did not mean failures to fullfill the contracts were either wilful or knowing, thereby requiring enforcement action.
The agency is expected to withhold release of its new rules, which will require more data filing to stiffen enforcement, until the section 581.7 matter is resolved. Three weeks were provided to review the issue.