Continuing frustration over fees resulting from port congestion and overloaded container yards continue to boil up with a trucking company being the latest to file a complaint against an ocean carrier with the Federal Maritime Commission. A Kansas-based trucking firm filed a complaint against Zim related to container fees with the FMC admitting that it expects a growing number of complaints.
International Express Trucking (IXT) writes in its formal complaint published by the FMC on April 19 that Zim designated return locations for containers that were unavailable and failed to respond to the company’s repeated requests for alternative locations. Zim, however, assessed $114,614.00 in detention charges against IXT.
According to the trucking company, between March and November 2021, IXT attempted to return empty containers to Zim, following Zim’s instructions. In all cases, Zim designated a return location that rejected the container return due to allocation having been met, congestion issues, a lack of space, and/or weather conditions and while IXT says it notified Zim that the container return was rejected, Zim failed to respond to requests to designate a different termination location. Further, IXT contends that Zim’s selected locations frequently had dwell times of four hours or more.
Further, the company says that Zim both refused to waive the detention charges, and also failed to provide timely invoices to IXT regarding the detention charges assessed. When they received the bills in January 20222, IXT reports it reached out to Zim but received no reply to redress the fees.
“Respondent’s practices and regulations relating to the assessment of demurrage/detention are directly related to receiving, handling, storing, or delivering property, are occurring on a normal, customary, and continuous basis, and are unjust and unreasonable,” writes IXT.
The complaint begins the standard process requiring Zim to respond to the FMC regarding its accessing of D&D charges. The FMC will review the case for violations of the Shipping Act exploring if Zim failed to establish and observe just and reasonable practices by failing to provide an equipment return location and/or by identifying an equipment return location that was not accepting the equipment.
This latest complaint joins several other recent filings with the FMC against both ocean carriers and terminal operators. In March 2022, two shippers filed complaints with the FMC regarding the business practices of Evergreen and CMA CGM accusing the carriers of denial of service and not honoring freight contracts. A freight company also filed a complaint against Long Beach, California terminal operator Total Terminals International over charges it incurred on a shipment of fraudulent merchandise that it was ordered to re-export back to Malaysia by Customs and Border Protection.
The FMC at the beginning of 2022 revised the complaint process and encouraged shippers to file complaints as the commission seeks to tighten enforcement of regulations, especially regarding fees. D&D became a flashpoint for complaints as port congestion rose in 2021 and those frustrations from shippers in part lead to the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act by both the U.S. House of Representatives and recently the U.S. Senate. The bill is awaiting a conference committee to reconcile differences before proceeding to President Biden who is expected to sign it into law. Among its provisions are new regulatory and enforcement powers for the FMC and shifting the burden of justification for fees to the carriers.
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