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The Lloyd’s List Podcast: The regulators’ view of container chaos

Listen to the latest edition of the Lloyd’s List’s weekly podcast — your free weekly briefing on the stories shaping shipping

Carriers may be following the letter of the law, but not necessarily the spirit of it, and are not behaving like good corporate citizens, according to our guest this week. Daniel Maffei is the chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission — the Washington agency responsible for regulating the US ocean shipping trades so when he tells liner bosses to ‘put on their commonsense caps’ they should probably listen


GIVEN the somewhat extraordinary chaos playing out in container shipping it was inevitable that regulators would be minded to take a proper look at the market.

With freight rates soaring to all-time highs, emotions as well as prices are running high and shippers have been crying foul.

The carriers must be colluding, they cried, demanding action from competition authorities — particularly in the US, where the Federal Maritime Commission stands guard against such possibilities.

The FMC, along with most other international regulators who have an interest and have taken a look, found no evidence of collusion between leading container lines or market manipulation.

The lines it seems are following letter of the law. But they are not following the spirit of it and it’s fair to say that the regulator’s interest in the lines is not about to disappear just because the headline accusation from shippers has not been upheld.

Our guest today is Daniel Maffei, chairman of the FMC, who joined me and Lloyd’s List’s very own queen of containers Janet Porter in the Lloyd’s List studio for this week’s podcast.

He’s one of five commissioners at the Federal Maritime Commission, so he appears in his capacity as an independent commissioner, making clear his views do not necessarily represent the views of the entire commission.

That said, he raises some very important issues that are of significance to the whole sector, not least his feeling that the extra fees being levied by lines, including congestion charges, are not right.

Container executives should also pay heed to his call for more clarity from the ocean carriers when it comes to explaining the economics of container shipping, and the industry’s essential role in supporting commerce.

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