Ocean Network Express (ONE) and Wan Hai Lines are set to pay a total of $2.65m in civil penalties amid allegations of misconduct by the Federal Maritime Commission’s Bureau of Enforcement, Investigations and Compliance (BEIC). Last July, the BEIC was established to merge the FMC’s investigative and prosecuting functions, following the passing of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA). In two cases, ONE and Wan Hai have been accused of violating US law by imposing detention and empty container return fees and have agreed to compensate affected shippers with refunds and waivers.
Wan Hai will pay $950,000 and ONE $1.7m in civil penalties, as well as reimbursing all shippers affected by wrongful practices. The FMC hopes these cases will act as a signal that “ocean carriers must fully comply with US legal obligations”. Hapag Lloyd paid $2m in June 2022 to resolve violations of US law related to sentencing in a similar case. The FMC underlined that the initial compromise agreement reached by ONE is made before formal enforcement action is taken, unlike the settlement agreement with Wan Hai, which completes ongoing enforcement processes.
The dispute between shipping firms and shippers saw OSRA’s fee grievance process come under scrutiny, as the FMC has now been flagged for settling fees worth $1m that were subject to OSRA’s regulations. OSRA permits the FMC to investigate complaints from shippers and order penalties or refunds for non-compliant charges, with fines paid into the US Treasury Department’s general fund. The discovery follows the ten-month anniversary of the act coming into effect, and the FMC is keen to establish a framework for fairer shipping charges, enforcing compliance and monitoring misconduct.
Tags: Federal Maritime Commission , FMC , Ocean Network Express , Ocean Shipping Reform Act , Wan Hai Lines