Potential Container Fee Disputes Loom After Baltimore Bridge Collapse


  • The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has led to routing cancellations, causing concerns about disputes over container fees.
  • With ocean carriers diverting cargo to alternate East Coast ports, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) anticipates challenges in detention and demurrage.
  • The FMC’s new rules and the Maritime Transportation Data Initiative may help mitigate these issues.

Following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, MSC, the world’s largest ocean carrier, announced the diversion of containers to alternate East Coast ports. Cargo originally bound for the Port of Baltimore faces rerouting, with the carriage contract declared terminated at the alternate port instead of at inland destinations.

Anticipated Disputes

FMC member Carl Bentzel foresees potential issues arising from routing changes, such as challenges in pickup and return of empty containers due to limited chassis availability. Disruptions in detention and demurrage may occur, requiring FMC intervention to resolve disputes.

Role of New FMC Rules

The FMC’s new demurrage and detention rule, effective May 26, aims to address late pickup and drop-off fees associated with container handling. These rules provide clarity on billing procedures, dispute resolution processes, and billing timeframes, offering a framework for addressing disputes.

Importance of Maritime Transportation Data Initiative (MTDI)

Bentzel highlights the significance of the MTDI in managing supply chain disruptions, particularly in light of recent incidents like the Baltimore bridge collapse. The MTDI aims to provide real-time position and estimated arrival times for container shipments, enhancing transparency and efficiency in the shipping industry.

Transition to Maritime Transportation Data System (MDTS)

Bentzel discusses the transition of MTDI recommendations into the Maritime Transportation Data System, which will facilitate in-transit visibility for containers. MDTS will require ocean carriers to provide scheduling information publicly, improving understanding and transparency in container shipping operations.

Continuing Efforts

The FMC plans to issue a second round of information collection on the MTDI, aiming to address industry concerns and garner support for the initiative. Despite some hesitancy from carriers, Bentzel remains committed to building a consensus and implementing measures to enhance transparency and efficiency in maritime transportation.

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Source: Freight Waves