On September 11, 2018, World Shipping Council (WSC), a trade organization representing global ocean carriers who transport containerized cargo imported to or exported from the United States, filed a petition with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for an exemption from the service contract filing and essential terms publication requirements set forth under 46 U.S.C. § 40502(b) and (d). WSC also asks for the initiation of a rulemaking proceeding to amend the service contract regulations administered by the FMC to conform them to the exemption, if granted. Service contracts are negotiated agreements between ocean carriers and their customers that set forth the rates and terms for performance of the transportation services.

In its petition, WSC argues that exempting service contracts from the filing requirements will satisfy the exemption standard, which permits the FMC to exempt from regulation any specified activity if it finds that “the exemption will not result in substantial reduction in competition or be detrimental to commerce.” WSC asserts that the filing of service contracts and amendments with the federal government and the requirement for ocean carriers to publish essential terms of those contracts in their tariffs represent a substantial administrative and regulatory burden to its ocean common carrier members.

WSC further contends that granting the requested exemption would be consistent with the Trump administration’s current policy to roll back unnecessary regulation and would place ocean carriers on equal footing with non-vessel-operating common carriers (NVOCCs), transportation intermediaries who contract with importers and exporters to arrange ocean transportation services on ocean carriers’ vessels. NVOCCs were relieved of their obligation to file customer contracts with the FMC on August 22, 2018.

Interested parties may file comments on the WSC’s petition with the FMC by November 19, 2018.