Amazon, Walmart To Advise Washington On Ocean Freight Policy

Some of the largest and most powerful companies in the U.S. will now have a say in shaping transportation policy in a public forum at the Federal Maritime Commission.

The FMC announced on Thursday the first 24 members to serve on its newly formed National Shipper Advisory Committee (NSAC), evenly divided between importers and exporters. Amazon AMZN, Walmart WMT, Target TGT, and Office Depot ODP are some of the big-name online and retail companies representing importers. DuPont DD, Tyson Foods, Inc. TSN, and Louis Dreyfus are among the major players that will represent exporters.

"I and the other Commissioners need rapid access to the perspectives of importers and exporters on the ground dealing with the realities of ocean shipping every day," said FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei. "We also need them to meet and help guide our efforts and those outside the FMC to improve the system and make it easier, fairer, and more efficient to American shippers. I am truly grateful to all of those who volunteered to serve on what I know will be an invaluable committee."

NSAC was established as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY21 on Jan. 1. The function of the committee, according to the law, "is to advise the [FMC] on policies relating to the competitiveness, reliability, integrity, and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system." FMC will have authority to consult NSAC "on significant agency actions relating to the committee's functions," the law states.

However, NSAC's duties are "solely advisory," according to the law, and the FMC is not obligated to act on its recommendations.

The goal of the FMC was to balance the membership of NSAC and "consider factors to include commodities shipped, ports used, geographic areas served, and origins of cargo, as well as other relevant factors."

The 12 importer members and their representatives:

  • Amazon (Adnan Qadri)
  • Walmart (Michael Brock)
  • Office Depot (Rick DiMaio)
  • Target (Scott Fremont)
  • IKEA (Debb Minskey)
  • Wayfair LLC (John Esborn)
  • Wine and Spirits Shippers Association (Alison Leavitt)
  • MEMA/Auto Car Association (Steven Hughes)
  • Brenntag North America Inc. (Brian Bumpass)
  • Gemini Shippers Group (Kenneth O'Brien)
  • Mohawk Logistics (Richard Roche)
  • Tractor Supply Co. (Colin Yankee)

 The 12 exporter members and their representatives:

  • DuPont (Fernando Lagonell)
  • Tyson Foods (Randy Strait)
  • Louis Dreyfus (Michael Symonanis)
  • Ocean Spray Cranberries Inc. (Jennifer Morrissey)
  • Blue Diamond Growers (Joshua Woods)
  • Cargill Inc. (Daniel Miller)
  • CHS Inc. (Justin Cauley)
  • Mallory Alexander International Logistics LLC (Robert Connor)
  • American Commodity Co. (Chris Crutchfield)
  • The Scoular Co. (Chris Crutchfield)
  • BOSSCO Trading LLC (Alexis Jacobson)
  • A Customs Brokerage Inc. (Gabriel Rodriguez)

The advisory panel comes at a time of rising complaints at the FMC from shippers claiming carriers are inappropriately profiting off shippers by taking advantage of unprecedented demand for carriers' services. "We have many letters from shippers arguing this, and we always look into those complaints," Maffei told FreightWaves.

After meeting this week with his regulatory counterparts at the European Commission and China's Ministry of Transportation, Maffei found that those agencies are hearing the same complaints. However, "the findings are similar too — all three authorities are not seeing evidence that carriers are manipulating the market to reduce capacity, or that the [carrier] alliances are not competing on price."

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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Alexander Kliem
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