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Questionable Shipping Practices Prompt NMPF Action with Maritime Commission

March 2, 2021

NMPF staff, working together with the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), joined several agriculture organizations last month to press the Federal Maritime Commission to help address severe shipping-related challenges plaguing dairy and other U.S. agricultural sectors.

A shift in U.S. consumer preferences for stay-at-home goods has led to a surge in imports from Asia, driving up container demand around the Pacific Rim. Meanwhile, several agricultural exporters, including U.S. dairy, are struggling with cancelled shipments, exorbitant detention and demurrage charges, and broken contracts as shipping companies are moving containers and vessels quickly back to Asia. Freight costs are netting 20 to 30 times more from Asia to the U.S. than vice versa and carriers are restricting availability of containers to rural points of origin in the interior U.S., preferring coastal drop-off and pickup.

In multiple meetings with maritime commissioners in February, NMPF and other organizations representing agricultural exporters stressed the urgent need to step-up regulatory compliance on detention and demurrage guidelines issued last year and to explore ways to address the container shortage issues. Alongside these organizations, NMPF is pursuing congressional outreach to encourage tougher FMC enforcement while working with other sectors to evaluate the need for changes to legislation to better equip the FMC to deal with such issues.