Stallion Cargo, Inc., a non-vessel operating common carrier based in South Florida, has been ordered by the FMC to pay a civil penalty of $50,000 due to violations of the Shipping Act. According to FMC Docket 99-18, Stallion violated section 10 (Prohibited Acts) of the Shipping Act of 1984, as amended, at various times in 1998, 1999, and 2000, by misdescribing cargoes tendered to vessel-operating carriers on 15 occasions, and by failing to charge its applicable NVOCC tariff rates on 152 occasions. These violations were carefully documented by the FMC’s Bureau of Enforcement.
In its Order of Investigation on Docket 99-18 the FMC described several shipments made by Stallion Cargo with King Ocean Service de Venezuela, S.A. (King Ocean) and SeaFreight Line, Ltd. (SeaFreight). On these shipments Stallion declared only one type of commodity to King Ocean and SeaFreight, who subsequently rated the commodities in accordance with the inaccurate description. Stallion’s house bills of lading, however, describe the specific commodities being shipped, and indicate that Stallion was fully cognizant that the shipments actually consisted of commodities different from those listed on King Ocean’s and SeaFreight’s bills of lading.
Relevant details on Stallion’s failure to charge the rates on file in its NVOCC tariff are provided in Docket 99-18. The FMC investigation was begun by FMC’s Area Representative in November, 1998 as part of a routine review of trade practices between the U.S. Gulf Coast and South America. At that time the only commodity rate published in Stallion’s tariff, which became effective on September 15, 1996, was for Cargo, N.O.S. Comparing the filed Cargo, N.O.S. rate applicable under Stallion’s tariff with the ocean freight assessed by Stallion on the ninety-three (93) house bills of lading, the FMC found Stallion undercharged its shippers on eighty (80) shipments in the amount of $32,233.96, and overcharged two shippers in the amount of $96.87.
In his Initial Decision in this case, FMC’s Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Norman D. Kline found Stallion committed violations knowingly and willfully, and continued a number of them for a time even after warning by the FMC. However, in view of mitigating factors presented by attorney’s representing Stallion the FMC did not suspend its OTI license and NVOCC tariff. These factors included Stallion’s small size, its weak financial situation, its corrections to its tariff, albeit belated, lack of evidence of continuing violations, and its expressed willingness to reform. The complete 60 page Initial Decision issued by the FMC’s Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) can be viewed by visiting the Commission’s Internet website at www.fmc.gov
The FMC’s Automated Tariff Filing and Information System (ATFI) has been taken off-line. This database system maintains the official record of FMC tariffs filed between mid-1993 and April 30, 1999. ATFI is expected to be unavailable for at least the first two weeks of April. This will not inconvenience many tariff users because it involves only historical tariff records. Current ocean carrier and NVOCC tariffs are no longer maintained or filed by the FMC in a central database. Instead, tariffs are maintained in Internet accessible databases, in a detailed format specified by the FMC in its regulations (issued in 46 CFR Part 520). Most ocean carriers and NVOCCs use professional tariff publishers to maintain their tariffs. A complete listing of the locations (web sites) of tariffs published in compliance with FMC regulations is accessible at www.fmc.gov under ‘View Carrier List.’