ICC BOWS TO FMC ON INTERMODAL ISSUE

ICC BOWS TO FMC ON INTERMODAL ISSUE

The Federal Maritime Commission rather than the Interstate Commerce

Commission should review some international intermodal movements, the ICC ruled Tuesday.

The move marks one of the few times in decades the two agencies have not been at each other's throat over the issue.The ruling arose out of a petition for a declaratory order filed by the Puerto Rico Maritime Shipping Authority and PRMMI Trucking. The petition sought a finding that the ICC has jurisdiction over motor/water through-route traffic moving between the United States and Puerto Rico.

The ICC decided that, while it had jurisdiction in this area, it did not have the expertise required to issue a ruling.

The case, the ICC said, appeared to be a port-to-port movement that should be reviewed by the FMC. The commission cited several factors to justify its conclusion.

It said, for example, that most of the truck portions of the movements consisted of hauling containers from inside the ship to a warehouse or some other facility within the terminal yard.

Moreover, the trucks operated only on private roads and never on public highways, the agency said. As a result, the commission concluded, the moves appear to be more of a port-to-port transaction that should be reviewed by the FMC rather than a bona fide intermodal movement.

The ICC said courts also have been reluctant to recognize the commission's authority in this type of intermodal operation.

For example, a federal appeals court reviewing an ICC decision involving a similar case had problems with the commission's claimed jurisdiction over this traffic.

The court said at the time that had the commission not held that it had authority over this traffic, it likely would have ruled that jurisdiction belonged to the FMC.

The agency also:

* Approved new rules to implement provisions of the National Trails System Improvement Act of 1988, a law that promotes the use of abandoned railroad rights of way for recreational use. The new rules require railroads to notify the ICC of any abandonment applications that may be covered by the act. Notices also must be served on the departments of Agriculture and Interior.

* Voted to issue a show-cause order on why an investigation into a 1985 rate increaseproposed by the New England Motor Freight Bureau should not be discontinued. The increase is in effect and the record in the case is far too stale, the commission said, to issue a reasonable decision.

* Awarded Louisiana Railcar Inc. $177,000, plus interest, in damages resulting from an embargo on traffic to and from its facility imposed by the Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. that later was found unlawful by the ICC.

* Denied an appeal by Doyle G. Owens, a non-attorney practitioner before the agency, of an ICC administrative law judge's decision suspending him from practicing before the agency for one year. Mr. Doyle was found guilty of falsely obtaining truck operating rights authority from the ICC and selling them to other parties.