Chances are, you’re not the only one looking to reduce demurrage and detention fees. Recently, a coalition of shippers, freight forwarders, and intermediaries urged US maritime regulators to make it easier to challenge congestion-related fees that container lines and marine terminals impose for delays that were out of their control. Terminals responded that it would cause chaos at the ports. Just this past Monday, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) voted unanimously to investigate further the concern of the coaltion, a welcome validation for shippers in the wake of ever-increasing volume, labor disputes and port congestion.
The FMC will discuss whether policy is needed to prevent what the coalition of shippers deemed “unfair” assessment of free time-related fees. While detention and demurrage fees have rarely been light for importers, recent instances of extreme port congestion – such as the aftermath of liner carrier Hanjin Shipping’s sudden bankruptcy, or the West Coast longshoreman’s strike in 2014 and 2015 – have exacerbated the issue. And container volume continues to rise faster than port terminals can expand.
Of course, importers and exporters will continue to rack-up large fees while the FMC slowly deliberates. But demurrage and detention fees are more than just a “cost of doing business”; they often trigger a ripple effect that throws exception into the planned supply chain flow. These exceptions lead to additional costs that add up. While many freight managers accept them as a line item, they have a detrimental impact of the bottom line.