FMC to Address COVID-19 Port Congestion by Engaging Industry Stakeholders

COVID-19 Update

Date: April 02, 2020

On March 31, 2020, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) issued an order announcing that it will be engaging supply chain stakeholders to address disruptions that the COVID-19 pandemic may have on cargo movement through U.S. ports. The pandemic has already caused a shortage of port space to facilitate the loading and unloading of shipments and return of empty cargo containers. Port congestion and other disruptions arising from COVID-19 could prevent U.S. businesses from timely accessing cargo and returning cargo containers and result in millions of dollars in demurrage and detention charges. It also could impact U.S. businesses by disrupting export shipments and the movement of cargo to and from ports.

Under the order, the FMC has opened a new fact-finding investigation and tasked Commissioner Rebecca Dye with holding discussions with shippers, drayage companies, marine terminals and other supply chain stakeholders to help avoid disruptions that COVID-19 may have on the U.S. supply chain and ensure a reliable freight delivery system. The commission also has authorized Commissioner Dye to form supply chain innovation teams to develop commercial solutions to port congestion and related supply chain issues arising from COVID-19. These innovation teams will include industry leaders from all sectors of the U.S. international ocean cargo system, including port authorities, marine terminal operators, shippers and receivers of cargo, ocean transportation intermediaries, steamship lines and drayage companies. Persons with relevant information may contact Commissioner Dye at

Thompson Hine is well-positioned to help U.S. businesses address port congestion issues arising from COVID-19. In response to port congestion events arising from 2012 to 2016, Thompson Hine petitioned the FMC on behalf of the Coalition for Fair Port Practices, a group of trade associations representing importers and exporters, draymen, freight forwarders and customs brokers, for guidance on just and reasonable demurrage and detention practices. We were also directly involved in subsequent commission proceedings that resulted in a proposed interpretive rule on these practices.


For more information, please contact:

Karyn A. Booth

Jason D. Tutrone


We have assembled a firmwide multidisciplinary task force to address clients’ business and legal concerns and needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see our COVID?19 Task Force web page for additional information and resources.

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