The Federal Maritime Commission Tuesday refused to step into an intermodal rate-sharing dispute between truckers in the port of New York and ocean carriers.
The commission unanimously rejected a petition from the Bi-State Harbor Carriers Conference of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association seeking an FMC rule to require ocean carriers to pay truckers their shares of intermodal rates within a specific time or face a penalty.Samuel Cunningham, executive director of the association in East Brunswick, N.J., told The Journal of Commerce later: It upsets us to think the FMC . . . is not providing this desperately needed regulation.
If a question of FMC jurisdiction is involved, Mr. Cunningham said, his association would likely seek a change through legislation.
He also stressed that while his group is concerned with the port of New York, its complaint against the payment practices of ocean carriers has national implications, which certainly affect a majority of the country's ports.
The motor carriers claimed the payments weren't made promptly and that some operators were subject to severe financial hardship.
A commission staff member, E. Lynn Strickland, told the commission that analysis of the shipping statutes indicated Congress did not intend for the FMC to regulate intercarrier payments.
Should the commission take on such an obligation, she added, the staff believed it would mean a substantial drain on the commission's resources and would not be justified.
Before the FMC voted to reject the petition, Commissioner Francis J. Ivancie said he was more concerned with the possible discrimination aspects of the case than with the bill collecting involved and the legal recourse truckers had.
The commission's general counsel, Robert D. Bourgoin, said motor carriers, even in the absence of a rule, could still file complaints at the FMC.
Commission member Thomas F. Moakley said it seems more logical for the motor carriers to put such rules into their tariffs at the Interstate Commerce
Commission and work through that agency.
Mr. Cunningham said later, however, that his group already had been to the ICC and that that agency said it lacked jurisdiction over such intermodal relationships.
At its open meeting Tuesday, the FMC also adopted a new rule to require the filing of agreements involving equipment interchange arrangements where they may affect actual freight charges.
And, despite some apprehensions at receiving a blizzard of amendments to agreements, the agency also agreed to require the filing of conference practices regarding service contracts.
Mr. Moakley said the agency should be looking for clarification of agreements without restrictions on service contracts.