The United Fresh Produce Association and Western Growers are two of about 80 organizations seeking relief from what the groups called “unconscionable” detention and demurrage penalties imposed by shipping lines on U.S. agriculture exporters and truckers.
In an April 3 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Lawrence Kudlow of the U.S. National Economic Council, the groups said shipping lines impose unreasonable costs and significant burdens on customers, including exporters and truckers.
“These fundamentally unfair fees are frequently exorbitant in nature, even exceeding the negotiated freight rates in some cases, and render U.S. agriculture exports less competitive in the global markets,” the letter said.
The letter said the ongoing injury to U.S. companies as a result of the unjustified penalties is “very real,” especially with the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
“There is great concern about detention and demurrage fees being assessed when there are equipment issues beyond the control of the shipper or motor carrier as a result of the pandemic,” the letter said.
The groups urged the Federal Maritime Commission to finalize an Interpretive Rule being considered that would provide detention and demurrage penalty guidance.
“The public comment period closed October 31, 2019; and almost all U.S. interests urged the commission to expeditiously adopt the Interpretive Rule as published,” the letter said. “We thank you for your consideration of our request to engage on behalf of U.S. agriculture and forestry on the immediate need for the Commission to adopt the Proposed Interpretive Rule as published, to provide guidance for when a detention or demurrage charge can or cannot be fairly imposed.”