Bill to Give Shippers Louder Voice in FMC Moves Forward in Senate
Importers and exporters are on their way to getting a stronger voice with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
By its own description, the FMC “is the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system for the benefit of U.S. exporters, importers, and the U.S. consumer.” It only makes sense that the voices of importers and exporters be heard by the commission.
There are, of course, means for shippers to raise concerns and file complaints with the FMC over issues that arise in the international shipping industry, like the unfair COVID-19-related detention fees shippers were hit with this year. However, the voices of shippers would be much stronger if there was a group of U.S. importers and exporters who were direct advisers to the FMC. That’s exactly what a bill in Congress proposes to create.
Senator Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi, introduced the bill to Congress in November of last year that, as reported by Chris Gillis in an American Shipper article, was just approved by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee. The bill is to establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee to the FMC made up of 24 U.S. shippers, half importers and half exporters.
This is exactly the kind of legislation I love. The bill is clear, specific, enactable, and contains no hidden agenda items. On top of that, the bill makes sense. It’s only logical that shippers, who have “particular expertise, knowledge, and experience” in ocean freight shipping should be advising the FMC “on policies relating to the competitiveness, reliability, integrity, and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system.” Yes, those quotes come directly from the bill.
Being approved by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, which Senator Wicker is the chairman of, means the bill will go before the full Senate for consideration. Hey, look! That’s someone in Congress doing the exact thing they’re supposed to be doing — leading a committee in introducing and approving a bill that helps U.S. citizens and businesses in the arena pertaining to their committee. Why does that feel like a novel concept? On top of what I wrote about the bill in the previous paragraph, it is short. There should be no confusion or debating endless minutia within the bill. It’s likely this bill could have already been passed if the last six months weren’t filled by the Senate dealing with a partisan impeachment trial and the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the bill is passed and enacted, the 24 shippers who are nominated and appointed to the National Shipper Advisory Committee will serve three year terms. They can be reappointed. The committee would terminate September 30th, 2029.
So you can make up your own mind on it, here’s the full text of the bill to establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee to the FMC, which you can also read as a PDF published by Congress:
To establish a National Shipper Advisory Committee.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Federal Maritime Commission National Shipper Advisory Committee Act of 2019’’.
SEC. 2. ADVISORY COMMITTEE.
Part B of subtitle IV of title 46, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘CHAPTER 424—NATIONAL SHIPPER ADVISORY COMMITTEE
‘‘§ 42401. Definitions
‘‘In this chapter:
‘‘(1) COMMISSION.—The term ‘Commission’ means the Federal Maritime Commission.
‘‘(2) COMMITTEE.—The term ‘Committee’ means the National Shipper Advisory Committee established by section 42402.
‘‘§ 42402. National Shipper Advisory Committee
‘‘(a) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is established a National Shipper Advisory Committee.
‘‘(b) FUNCTION.—The Committee shall advise the Federal Maritime Commission on policies relating to the competitiveness, reliability, integrity, and fairness of the international ocean freight delivery system.
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The Committee shall consist of 24 members appointed by the Commission in accordance with this section.
‘‘(2) EXPERTISE.—Each member of the Committee shall have particular expertise, knowledge, and experience in matters relating to the function of the Committee.
‘‘(3) REPRESENTATION.—Members of the Committee shall be appointed as follows:
‘‘(A) Twelve members shall represent entities who import cargo to the United States using ocean common carriers.
‘‘(B) Twelve members shall represent entities who export cargo from the United States using ocean common carriers.
‘‘§ 42403. Administration
‘‘(a) MEETINGS.—The Committee shall, not less than once each year, meet at the call of the Commission or a majority of the members of the Committee.
‘‘(b) EMPLOYEE STATUS.—A member of the Com-11mittee shall not be considered an employee of the Federal Government by reason of service on such Committee, except for the purposes of the following:
‘‘(1) Chapter 81 of title 5.
‘‘(2) Chapter 171 of title 28 and any other Federal law relating to tort liability.
‘‘(c) ACCEPTANCE OF VOLUNTEER SERVICES.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a member of the Committee may serve on such committee on a voluntary basis without pay.
‘‘(d) STATUS OF MEMBERS.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—Except as provided in paragraph (2), with respect to a member of the Committee whom the Commission appoints to represent an entity or group—
‘‘(A) the member is authorized to represent the interests of the applicable entity or group; and
‘‘(B) requirements under Federal law that would interfere with such representation and that apply to a special Government employee (as defined in section 202(a) of title 18), including requirements relating to employee conduct, political activities, ethics, conflicts of interest, and corruption, do not apply to the member.
‘‘(2) EXCEPTION.—Notwithstanding subsection (b), a member of the Committee shall be treated as a special Government employee for purposes of the committee service of the member if the member, without regard to service on the committee, is a special Government employee.
‘‘(e) SERVICE ON COMMITTEE.—
‘‘(1) SOLICITATION OF NOMINATIONS.—Before appointing an individual as a member of the Committee, the Commission shall publish a timely notice in the Federal Register soliciting nominations for membership on such Committee.
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—After considering nominations received pursuant to a notice published under paragraph (1), the Commission may appoint a member to the Committee.
‘‘(B) PROHIBITION.—The Commission 6shall not seek, consider, or otherwise use infor-7mation concerning the political affiliation of a 8nominee in making an appointment to the Committee.
‘‘(3) SERVICE AT PLEASURE OF THE COMMISSION.—Each member of the Committee shall serve at the pleasure of the Commission.
‘‘(4) SECURITY BACKGROUND EXAMINATIONS.— The Commission may require an individual to have passed an appropriate security background examination before appointment to the Committee.
‘‘(5) PROHIBITION.—A Federal employee may not be appointed as a member of the Committee.
‘‘(A) IN GENERAL.—The term of each member of the Committee shall expire on December 31 of the third full year after the effective date of the appointment.
‘(B) CONTINUED SERVICE AFTER TERM.— When the term of a member of the Committee ends, the member, for a period not to exceed 1 year, may continue to serve as a member until a successor is appointed.
‘‘(7) VACANCIES.—A vacancy on the Committee shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.
‘‘(8) SPECIAL RULE FOR REAPPOINTMENTS.— Notwithstanding paragraphs (1) and (2), the Commission may reappoint a member of a committee for any term, other than the first term of the member, without soliciting, receiving, or considering nominations for such appointment.
‘‘(f) STAFF SERVICES.—The Commission shall furnish to the Committee any staff and services considered by the Commission to be necessary for the conduct of the Committee’s functions.
‘‘(g) CHAIR; VICECHAIR.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The Committee shall elect a Chair and Vice Chair from among the committee’s members.
‘‘(2) VICE CHAIRMAN ACTING AS CHAIRMAN.— The Vice Chair shall act as Chair in the absence or incapacity of, or in the event of a vacancy in the office of, the Chair.
‘‘(h) SUBCOMMITTEES AND WORKING GROUPS.—
‘‘(1) IN GENERAL.—The Chair of the Committee may establish and disestablish subcommittees and working groups for any purpose consistent with the function of the Committee.
‘‘(2) PARTICIPANTS.—Subject to conditions imposed by the Chair, members of the Committee may be assigned to subcommittees and working groups established under paragraph (1).
‘‘(i) CONSULTATION, ADVICE, REPORTS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS.—
‘‘(1) CONSULTATION.—Before taking any significant action, the Commission shall consult with, and consider the information, advice, and recommendations of, the Committee if the function of the Committee is to advise the Commission on matters related to the significant action.
‘‘(2) ADVICE, REPORTS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS.—The Committee shall submit, in writing, to the Commission its advice, reports, and recommendations, in a form and at a frequency determined appropriate by the Committee.
‘‘(3) EXPLANATION OF ACTIONS TAKEN.—Not later than 60 days after the date on which the Commission receives recommendations from the Committee under paragraph (2), the Commission shall—
‘‘(A) publish the recommendations on a public website; and
‘‘(B) respond, in writing, to the Committee regarding the recommendations, including by providing an explanation of actions taken regarding the recommendations.
‘‘(4) SUBMISSION TO CONGRESS.—The Commission shall submit to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the Senate the advice, reports, and recommendations received from the Committee under paragraph (2).
‘‘(j) OBSERVERS.—The Commission may designate a representative to—
‘‘(1) attend any meeting of the Committee; and
‘‘(2) participate as an observer at such meeting.
‘‘(k) TERMINATION.—The Committee shall terminate on September 30, 2029.’’.