US Senate Approves Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998: 71-26 vote for S.414
The bill has been referred to the US House of Representatives, where a similar version of the bill has yet to be introduced in this Congress. Chances of passage in the House this year appear far from certain.
Key Provisions of the Ship Reform Act:amending the Shipping Act of 1984
- Maintains an independent Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
- Eliminates public disclosure of service contract rates and charges agreed between vessel operators and shippers, but contracts will continue to be filed with the FMC. Only the US ports, commodities, volumes and service contract duration will be made available to the public.
- Provides for broader disclosure of additional terms of service contracts to longshore unions for collective bargaining purposes.
- Removes equal access requirements on service contracts for similarity situated shippers (often called the “me too” rule).
- Prohibits conferences and rate agreements from restricting individual tariff and rate actions by member carriers; shortens notice period from not more than 10 days to five days.
- Vessel Operating Common Carriers and NVOCCs must continue to issue public tariffs.
- Eliminates the FMC’s “ATFI” tariff filing system, and replaces it with electronic publishing systems approved and monitored by the FMC.
- New assembled automobiles become exempt from FMC tariff publication requirements.
- Effective May 1, 1999, if approved by the US House of Representatives without amendment and signed into law by President Clinton this year.
Will the Ship Reform Act of 1998 Gain Full Approval?
Until the bill is fully approved it has no impact on FMC regulations. There are no regulatory changes currently under consideration by the FMC. The FMC is enforcing the current US shipping law, and all regulations issued pursuant to the law, viz: the Shipping Act of 1984. The current US Federal Government fiscal year ends 30Sep1998; while the US budget for fiscal year 1999 is not yet finalized, the budget proposed by President Clinton includes no changes in funding for FMC for 1999. We expect this budget, and FMC’s funding, will be approved shortly.
DPI’s Plans for 1999: if the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998 becomes law
There will be one key change to our operations that will make our service here at DPI more timely. Currently, tariff filing requests from our customers are promptly reviewed by our staff, entered into our database, proofread, and then transmitted to FMC for official filing. Upon receipt of confirmation of filing from FMC, we print tariff pages, and send confirmation messages to our customers. If S.414 becomes law, we will no longer be required to transmit tariff updates to FMC, because FMC will access and monitor our database. We believe this will allow us to forward confirmation of filing/publication to our customers faster than our current procedure. We also plan to offer more options for tariff distribution, viz: tariffs on CD-ROM disks and access to our database via the Internet’s World Wide Web.
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SIGNALS the newsletter of Distribution-Publications, Inc. Vol. 2, No. 1, May 1, 1998