For Immediate Release December 8, 2023

Nicholas L. Webb named Associate  

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC is pleased to announce that Nicholas L. Webb (“Nick”) has been promoted to the position of Associate, following his admission to the Bar of the District of Columbia on November 6, 2023. 

Nick joined the Firm as a Law Clerk in August, 2022, before which he clerked for Chief Administrative Law Judge Erin M. Wirth of the Federal Maritime Commission.

Nick earned his J.D. from Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and his B.S. (Business Administration) from Drexel University, with a major in International Business and Legal Studies. 

Growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nick was first exposed to the international transportation industry at the age of 13, when he established an importing business. An avid outdoorsman, Nick enjoys running and hiking and has spent considerable time in Kathmandu, Nepal, as a volunteer at a school serving the special needs community.

Founding Principal Eric C. Jeffrey congratulated Nicholas on his recent bar admission and new position. Founding Principal Rebecca A. Fenneman remarked, Nick has been a key part of our success and growth, and we are delighted that he will take on this new role, which will enable us to continue to efficiently and effectively serve our clients.”

For Immediate Release August 1, 2023

Kaya C. Massey joins Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC.  

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC is pleased to announce that Kaya C. Massey has joined the firm as an Associate.  

Kaya earned her J.D. cum laude from Tulane University Law School in 2018, with a concentration in maritime law. In 2020, she graduated at the top of her class with her Masters in Laws (LL.M.) from American University Washington College of Law. Previously, Kaya graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor’s of Political Science. 

Kaya began her career in the Paris office of the firm Hogan Lovells, focusing on shipping contracts and compliance. She then began working for the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) in the Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services. She also clerked in the Eastern District of Louisiana for Judge Carl Barbier before transitioning back to private practice. 

Kaya has substantive knowledge of admiralty practice as well as extensive experience litigating before administrative courts. She is creative, dedicated, determined, and passionate about modern developments in international shipping and trade. 

Kaya is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia.

Founding Principal Rebecca A. Fenneman said, "We are so pleased to have Kaya join us in this specialized practice.  Her experience, knowledge and enthusiasm are a strong addition to Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC, and will greatly enhance service to our clients.  We are very excited to welcome her aboard!"  

For Immediate Release June 27, 2023

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC Principal Rebecca A. Fenneman moderated a discussion with Boaz Lessem, General Counsel of WaveBL, and Luca Castellani, of UNCITRAL, on the commercial benefits and legal roadblocks of the adoption of electronic Bills of Lading.  You can watch the replay here:

For Immediate Release January 28, 2023

FMC Regulatory Agenda Reveals Forthcoming Maritime Regulations*

Prepared by: Nicholas L. Webb

The Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC” or “Commission”) has been directed by the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (“OSRA22”) to undertake several rulemakings for the implementation of that legislation.

1. Unreasonable Refusals to Deal. On June 16, 2022, President Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (“OSRA22”) into law. OSRA22 directed the FMC to initiate a rulemaking by July 16, 2022, to define unreasonable refusal to deal or negotiate with respect to vessel space accommodations provided by an ocean common carrier. On September 13, 2022, the FMC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) proposing a definition of such unreasonableness that would work in combination with 46 U.S.C. 41104(a)(10) which prohibits a common carrier, either alone or working in conjunction with any other person directly or indirectly, from unreasonably refusing to deal or negotiate with respect to vessel space accommodations provided by an ocean common carrier. 

The Commission proposed that, to establish a violation for unreasonable refusal to deal or negotiate, Complainants would be required to meet three elements: 1) the Respondent is an ocean common carrier under FMC jurisdiction; 2) the Respondent refuses to deal or negotiate regarding vessel space accommodations; and 3) the refusal to deal or negotiate is unreasonable. The NPRM proposed that the Commission’s analysis of whether an ocean common carrier’s refusal to deal or negotiate would consider whether the ocean common carrier gave good faith consideration to a party’s efforts at negotiation, and that a repeated refusal to respond to email or phone requests for negotiations over an extended period may be viewed by the Commission as an unreasonable method of shutting a party out. The Commission also mentioned that a common carrier granting special treatment to a party that is a regular customer over another party would likely to be viewed as unreasonable. 

The Commission has received nearly thirty comments in response to the NPRM. In a meeting held on January 25, 2023, however, the Commission announced that it will issue a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“SNPRM”) that addresses these comments. The SNPRM will also provide the Commission with the opportunity to receive additional comments from the public. We anticipate the SNPRM will be forthcoming sometime in February 2023.

2. Demurrage and Detention Billing Requirements. On February 15, 2022, the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC” or “the Commission”) issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“ANPRM”) seeking industry views on potential demurrage and detention billing requirements. The Commission sought public comment on whether such billing requirements should apply to non-vessel operating common carrier (“NVOCCs”) and marine terminal operators (“MTOs”) in addition to vessel operating common carriers (“VOCCs”). 

OSRA22 (enacted after the FMC had started this rulemaking) required the FMC to issue a proposed rule by July 31, 2022, and prohibits common carriers from issuing an invoice for detention or demurrage charges without including specific information: (A) date that container is made available; (B) the port of discharge; (C) the container number or numbers; (D) for exported shipments, the earliest return date; (E) the allowed free time in days; (F) the start date of free time; (G) the end date of free time; (H) the applicable detention or demurrage rule on which the daily rate is based; (I) the applicable rate or rates per the applicable rule; (J) the total amount due; (K) the email, telephone number, or other appropriate contact information for questions or requests for mitigation of fees; (L) a statement that the charges are consistent with any of Federal Maritime Commission rules with respect to detention and demurrage; (M) a statement that the common carrier's performance did not cause or contribute to the underlying invoiced charges. Failure to include this information on demurrage and detention invoices excuses a shipper from paying the invoice.  The Commission was also tasked by OSRA22 with making additional regulations related to demurrage and detention billing practices, and the ANPRM addressed additional requirements such as the time within which a demurrage or detention invoice must be issued, to whom and by whom, and what the appropriate timeframe should be for refunds. 

On October 14, 2022, the Commission issued an NPRM that would: 1) adopt minimum information that common carriers must include in a demurrage or detention invoice; 2) further define prohibited practices by clarifying which parties may be appropriately billed for demurrage or detention charges; and 3) establish billing practices that billing parties must follow when invoicing for demurrage or detention charges.

As of January 25, 2023, the Commission said that it was reviewing the more than 180 comments it had received in response to the NPRM.  We expect a Final Rule to be issued sometime before OSRA22’s statutory deadline, June 16, 2023. 

3. No emergency conditions found. The Commission also announced on January 25, 2023, that despite its authority under OSRA22 to issue an emergency order requiring any common carrier or MTO to share directly with relevant shippers, rail carriers, or motor carriers information relating to cargo availability, it had not found any such conditions that currently exist.  This authority expires on December 16, 2023. 

Please contact us if you have questions.

Eric Jeffrey, Principal

Rebecca Fenneman, Principal

Nicholas Webb, Law Clerk

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For Immediate Release August 22, 2022

Nicholas L. Webb Joins Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy PLLC is pleased to announce that Nicholas L. Webb has joined the firm as a Law Clerk, effective August 22, 2022. 

Nicholas is an aspiring maritime attorney, who most recently worked for the Federal Maritime Commission in the Office of Administrative Law Judges, assisting the Chief Administrative Law Judge in conducting legal analyses, drafting judicial orders and managing cases.  Nicholas is currently completing the final year of his law degree at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. Nicholas plans to take the District of Columbia bar exam and remain in Washington in practice.

Nicholas first gained experience in the international transportation industry at the age of 13, when he established his own online business. He attended Drexel University, where he successfully completed a 5-year undergraduate program, that gave him significant professional work experience allowed him to graduate with more than two years of professional multiple industries.

When not studying or working, Nicholas enjoys outdoor activities such as running and hiking. He has also spent considerable time in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he volunteers each year at school serving the special needs community.

Jeffrey/Fenneman welcomes Nick to the firm and looks forward to his participation in our effort to provide high-quality, cost-effective legal services to the shipping industry.

For Immediate Release July 27, 2022

ALERT TO OUR CLIENTS:  FMC Signals Authority to Order Penalties or Refunds for Any Carrier Accessorials*

Summary:  The FMC appears likely to order civil penalties or refunds of any type of carrier fee under the new charge complaint process of OSRA22.

At an open meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) held on July 27, 2022, the FMC General Counsel opined, in response to a question from Chairman Maffei, that the new procedure for charge complaints made pursuant to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA22) amendments to the Shipping Act of 1984 may be applied not only to detention and demurrage charges, but also to any other assessorial charge (surcharge).  The Chairman specifically mentioned such surcharges as congestion surcharges by any name, peak season surcharges (PSS), and bunker adjustment factors (BAF), but in theory the General Counsel’s opinion could also extend to other accessorials Chairman Maffei did not mention. 

The General Counsel’s opinion would effectively allow the FMC, upon shipper complaint, to investigate any/all surcharges imposed by common carriers, thus opening up a vast opportunity for confusion and FMC review of surcharges other than detention and demurrage. 

We note especially that this would apply to NVOCCs as well as vessel-operating ocean common carriers (VOCCs), and thus increasing the value of passing on  any VOCC charges without markup and thus arguably fall within the safe harbor provisions of OSRA22.

If you need any further information or assistance in the meantime, please contact us.   

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For Immediate Release: May 4, 2022



Summary:  Federal Maritime Commission proposes amendments to its tariff rules that will require free public access, allow cross-reference ocean carrier tariffs, allow immediate pass-throughs, and eliminate co-loading for FCL cargo.


On April 28, 2022, the FMC published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NRPM) on proposed modifications to its rules governing Carrier Automated Tariffs (46 CFR Part 520). Comments are due by May 28, 2022. 


Although the NRPM itself has no immediate effect on NVOCCs, the proposals therein, if finalized, certainly could.  We assume that your trade associations will coordinate response to the FMC, but we encourage you to review the NRPM carefully and, if appropriate, share any concerns with the appropriate association.


The significant changes proposed by the FMC would:

1.    Eliminate tariff access fees.   The NPRM proposes to eliminate all tariff access fees.  This may help NVOCCs access VOCC tariffs for free, but NVOCCs would no longer be able to charge for access to their own tariffs (likely not a significant issue, since most NVOCCs already provide free access as a condition of using NRAs).


2.    Allow NVOCCs to cross reference VOCC tariffs.  The proposed language reads, “(iv) An NVOCC may cross-reference an ocean common carrier tariff for the purpose of charging its shipper the ocean common carrier’s surcharges and assessorial charges, provided the named charges are clearly listed in the NVOCC’s tariff, and not marked up above cost


3.    Allow NVOCCs immediately to pass through increases in charges. The NPRM would allow NVOCCs immediately to pass through (without mark-up) certain VOCC increases, instead of requiring a 30-day delay now required by the statute and the rules. The FMC proposes to add language to 520.7: “(h) Charges assessed by ocean common carriers to non-vessel operating common carriers. NVOCCs may pass through charges received from ocean common carriers for terminal services, canal tolls, additional charges, or other provisions which are not under the control of the common carrier or conferences, and for which the ocean common carrier merely acts as a collection agent. The charges must be clearly listed in the NVOCC’s tariffs, and not marked up above cost.”  While the language is unclear, it appears that the drafters intended “common carrier” here to mean ocean common carrier, but the importance is that it is outside the control of whichever carrier is imposing the passed through charge without 30 days’ notice.  The explanatory language also proposes to interpret 46 CFR 520.8(b)(4) to enables NVOCCs (as well as VOCCs) to immediately pass on (without notice) certain increases in charges outside their control, such as those imposed by terminals, canal authorities and the like, if done without any mark up.  


4.    Co-loading. The Commission has proposed substantial changes to the co-loading rules, most importantly as follows:


a.    Co-loading would be limited to LCL cargoes. This would eliminate the ability of NVOCCs to combine FCL shipments to receive lower contract rates from VOCCs, except perhaps under the receiving NVOCCs tariff rates (which must be available to all shippers).


b.    Document requirements for co-loaded shipments would be substantially increased so as to show all of the NVOCC participants involved in the transportation process.


*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2022

Summary:  FMC Says Pass Throughs are Not Defense Against Allegations of Unreasonable Charges*

On February 23, 2022, the FMC sua sponte determined to review a Small Claims Officer’s decision dismissing a claim that an NVOCC had unreasonably assessed detention for cargo that had exceeded free time because it was subject to government hold.  The Commission issued its final decision on March 22, 2022, affirming the determination below that the Claimant had not proven Respondent acted unreasonably. Notable in the final decision, however, was the Commission’s “clarification” that (although not controlling in this matter) merely ”‘passing on’ a charge is not necessarily a defense under § 41102(c).” Docket No. 1972(I), Tereno SDN BHD v. C.H. Robinson (FMC)(March 22, 2022).

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For Immediate Release: March 21, 2022

Summary:  Federal Maritime Commission has increased civil penalties and is seeking multi-million dollar sums for modest numbers of violations.*

1. On January 11, 2022, the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC” or “Commission”) by rule increased the levels of penalties that it may assess for violations of the Shipping Act.  Penalties for “knowing and willful” violations were raised from $61,820 to $65,666, per violation, while penalties for other violations that are not “knowing and willful” were increased from $12,363 to $13,132. 87 Fed. Reg. 2350 (January 14, 2022). 

2. The FMC’s Bureau of Enforcement (“BOE”) has begun arguing in enforcement cases for much higher penalties, based on a novel approach to calculating the number of violations.  In a recent brief before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), BOE has proposed a massive penalty of $16.5 million against a common carrier for collecting detention (per diem) charges on 11 containers for days when the motor carrier alleged it could not return the containers to the marine terminal.  According to BOE, the number of violations should be calculated by multiplying the number of containers by the number of days that have passed since the allegedly unreasonable act or admission. 

BOE also asserts that the violations should be deemed knowing and willful, because the carrier knew or should have known that such charges were unreasonable, based on an Interpretative Rule published in 2020. Docket No. 19–05, Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention Under the Shipping Act, 85 Fed. Reg. 29638 (May 18, 2020).  Applying this formula to the 11 containers at issue, BOE calculates that the maximum penalty is $165,690,398 ($65,666 x 11 containers x the 228 days during which the carrier declined to waive per diem charges or extend free time) and argues that a penalty assessment of at least 10 percent of that amount is appropriate to deter future violations.   

We do not know how the ALJ currently presiding over the trial phase of the proceeding or the Commission will rule on this matter, but we believe that this is a clear shot across the bow of regulated entities, informing them that the FMC will be more aggressive both in bringing enforcement actions and in seeking higher penalties than ever before. The take-home message is that regulated entities should redouble their efforts to ensure 100 percent compliance by the company and all its employees.  BOE’s demand for such substantial penalties can also serve as a way to emphasize to employees that compliance is not just a matter of convenience, but a critical element of the company’s success.

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For Immediate Release February 10, 2022

Washington, DC

The U.S. Senate today confirmed Mr. Max Vekich (D-WA) to serve as a Commissioner on the Federal Maritime Commission vice Michael A. Khouri.  With this confirmation, the make up of the Commission will be three Democrats (along with Chairman Dan Maffei and Commissioner Carl Bentzel) and two Republicans (Commissioners Rebecca F. Dye and Louis Sola).

For Immediate Release December 23, 2021

To our esteemed clients and colleagues:

Thank you for a remarkable inaugural year.  We are grateful for your business and we wish you all the best for continuing success and prosperity in 2022.

--Eric C. Jeffrey and Rebecca A. Fenneman

For Immediate Release December 8, 2021

Summary:  FMC launches Maritime Data Initiative; will present recommendations for common data standards at a Data Summit in Spring, 2022

The FMC’s new Maritime Data Initiative (“MDI”), formed in November and spearheaded by Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel, had its first public meeting on December 7. Its task is to consider and propose recommendations for common data standards, processes, and other measures to streamline information sharing across the international. In addition to Commissioner Bentzel, presentations were made by:  FMC Chairman Daniel Maffei, FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye, FMC Commissioner Michael Khouri, White House Port Envoy John Porcari, Brian Bumpass (Chair, FMC National Shippers Advisory Committee), Lars Jensen (Vespucci Maritime), and Dr. Kristen Monaco (Director, FMC Bureau of Trade Analysis).

The take home message was that the MDI will hold weekly public information meetings, starting next week. The MDI plans to produce by early Spring 2022:  (1) a catalog of currently available supply chain data; (2) an identification of the key gaps in supply chain data; and (3) recommendations for common data standards.

We will be following the MDI as it advances and will provide updates as useful. In the meantime, please let us know if you want more detail about the December 7 meeting.

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

For immediate release August 10, 2021

Summary:  If enacted, legislative proposals will have significant impact on FMC-regulated entities, their customers, and business partners

There is momentum on Capitol Hill and at the Federal Maritime Commission to substantially amend the Shipping Act through two pending proposals:  the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 (co-sponsored by Congressmen Garamendi and Johnson introduced today;) and recommendations of FMC Commissioner Rebecca Dye flowing from her Fact Finding 29 investigation.  

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 would greatly expand the authority of the FMC by allowing breaches of service contract claims to be heard by the FMC (not only in courts) and authorizing the FMC to order refunds of detention/demurrage payments as part of an investigation and re-distribute civil penalties it collects to shippers.  It would also adopt as substantive legal requirements the FMC’s Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention and requiring VOCCs to certify that charges comply with those rules (with failure to certify or inaccurate certifications leading to inability to collect charges and potential penalties).  The proposal would also prohibit ocean common carriers from: engaging in “unjust and unreasonable practices” with respect to service contracts;  failing to provide equipment necessary for transportation or establishing rules that unreasonably reduce access to equipment; failing to establish reasonable practices for the allocation of vessel space; unreasonably declining to carry exports.  It would also require the FMC to implement many of these provisions through rulemaking in ways that would limit carriers’ and terminal operators ability to charge detention/demurrage, allow FMC review of the levels of detention/demurrage charges, create minimum service standards for ocean carriers, and require carriers to send notices of availability to their customers.

Commissioner Dye’s proposal would expand the prohibition on carrier retaliation against shippers, including extension of the protection to shipper’s agents and motor carriers; authorize up to double reparations for violation of the prohibition against “unjust and unreasonable practices;” require carriers to refund unreasonable demurrage and detention charges (potentially on top of civil penalties); and more generally authorize refunds in addition to civil penalties in enforcement proceedings.

In sum, these new proposals reflect a wish list for shippers ; the exact scope of the effect on NVOs is unclear, due to poor drafting, but at the very least they may become subject to the proposed double reparations and are likely to face difficult issues in passing on charges to their customers.

 *This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

May 28, 2021.

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC Principal Rebecca Fenneman appears on Freightwaves TV: Navigate B2B to discuss international ocean shipping and the Federal Maritime Commission.  Watch it here:

Federal Maritime Commission Orders Supplemental Briefing in Detention and Demurrage Proceeding*

For Immediate Release:  April 27, 2021

Summary:  Small Claim Could Have Big Impact on Demurrage and Detention Rules.

NVOCCs and ocean carriers regulated by the Federal Maritime Commission are well-advised to pay close attention to a small claims (“informal docket”) proceeding now pending before the full Commission on sua sponte review.  The case is quite likely to set an important question as to:  (i) the ability of carriers to charge detention/demurrage for periods when the place of return is not open for business, (ii) the ability of NVOCCs to pass on such charges at a profit, and (iii) the “first purchaser rule” under which only the party that paid an overcharge to a carrier may bring a complaint and it is no defense to an overcharge that the complainant passed the charge on to others.

In Informal Docket No. 1966(I), TCW, Inc. v. Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) Corporation, & Evergreen Line Joint Service Agreement, a Settlement Officer awarded the complainant $510 on the basis that Evergreen had engaged in an unjust and unreasonable act when it charged demurrage and detention for days when the Port of Savannah (place of return) was closed.  

Although such decisions cannot be appealed to the full Commission by the parties, the FMC decided to review the decision sua sponte, and yesterday ordered supplemental briefing, including potential amici addressing:  

(1) The Commission’s authority over Evergreen Shipping Agency (and the Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA));

(2) Whether the acts alleged in the complaint were unreasonable practices as outlined in the Commission’s recent interpretive rule on demurrage and detention, Docket No. 19-05 (46 C.F.R. § 545.5); and

(3) The complainant’s ability to assert reparations when it passed the charges through to its own customer.   

 *This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

FMC Seeks Comment on Carrier Automated Tariff Regulations

For Immediate Release:  April 8, 2021 Washington, D.C.

The Federal Maritime Commission today issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) seeking public comment on possible changes to its regulations concerning the tariff publication requirements for common carriers. 46 CFR Part 520.  First, the FMC seeks public comment on access fees to tariff publications currently charged by common carriers.  Second, the Commission seeks comment on possible limitations to the extent to which "pass-through costs" in 46 CFR 520.8(b)(4) has been interpreted by the industry include ocean common carrier General Rate Increases ("GRIs") that non-vessel-operating ocean common carriers (NVOCCs) wish to pass along to to their customers without the customary 30 day waiting requirement for rate increases.  Comments are due to the FMC by June 7, 2021.

Chairman Daniel B. Maffei Presides Over Closed Meeting of the Federal Maritime Commission

For Immediate Release:  April 7, 2021 Washington, D.C.

The Federal Maritime Commission is meeting in closed session today to discuss two agenda items.  First, the Commission will consider a presentation made by the staff economists of the Bureau of Trade Analysis, currently lead by Director Florence A. Carr, entitled "U.S. Economic Conditions and Ocean Carrier Alliances."  We feel certain the briefing is to include the knock-on effects of the recent closure of the Suez Canal, caused by the nearly week-long grounding of the containership Ever Given as well as well-publicized vessel-congestion and equipment shortages at the Nation's ports.  The FMC staff will also discuss the Maersk/MSC Vessel Sharing Agreement, the THE Agreement (ONE/HMM/ YangMing/Hapag-Lloyd), and the OCEAN Alliance Agreement (COSCO/CMA CGM/Evergreen).  This will be followed by a presentation by FMC Commissioner Rebecca F. Dye and the staff of the General Counsel's Office and Bureau of Trade Analysis, and other staff, discussing the current status of Fact-Finding No.  29,  International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement.   If the FMC makes any announcements following this meeting, this release will be updated accordingly.  

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts. 

Daniel B. Maffei Named Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission

For Immediate Release:  March 29, 2021                                     Washington, D.C.

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC has learned that President Biden today designated Federal Maritime Commissioner Daniel B. Maffei (Democrat of New York) to serve as Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission.  This action is effective immediately and does not require Senate confirmation.  Chairman Maffei’s current term expires June 30, 2022.

In addition to this change in FMC leadership, the upcoming months are likely to see a change in the Commission’s composition.  The terms for two of the Republican Commissioners have expired or soon will expire, and we anticipate that President Biden will use one of these opportunities to name a Democrat as Commissioner, putting Democrats in the majority going forward.

Given Chairman Maffei’s past statements, we expect these changes to result in an FMC that is even more active and aggressive in enforcing the Shipping Act and implementing President Biden’s regulatory agenda.  Areas of focus are likely to include: (1) export equipment availability; (2) detention and demurrage charges by carriers and MTOs; and (3) other practices regarding the transfer of cargo between carriers, terminals, and shippers.  We also expect Chairman Maffei to be active with respect to improvement of U.S. ports.

Chairman Maffei initially served as an FMC Commissioner from June 29, 2016 - June 30, 2018, filling the expired term of former Chairman Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr.; he was then renominated and confirmed to his current term on January 2, 2019.  Prior to his appointment to serve on the FMC, Chairman Maffei was elected to two terms in the United States House of Representatives (NY-25 from 2009 to 2011, and NY-24 from 2013 to 2015), where he served on the House Armed Services Committee, House Financial Services Committee, and House Judiciary Committee.  Chairman Maffei also served on the House Committee on Science and Technology and was Ranking Member of its Oversight Subcommittee.  During that time, Commissioner Maffei’s Central New York district included the Port of Oswego, the first U.S. port of call and deepwater port on the Great Lakes, for which he was able to secure vital funding to improve the port’s rail link and the resources to better dredge the port.  Immediately prior to his initial appointment to the FMC, Mr. Maffei was a Senior Advisor at the United States Department of Commerce.

Before getting elected to Congress, Chairman Maffei worked on the Democratic staff of the House Ways and Means Committee and served as Press Secretary for U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and for U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.  He received his bachelor’s degree in History and American Civilization from Brown University and holds master’s degrees from the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Chairman Maffei has also, among other things, served as a Professor of Practice at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management, taught at the New York State College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), been a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC), and served as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Third Way.

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts. 

FMC to meet February 17 in Closed Session -- Major Enforcement Announcement Likely

February 12, 2021, Washington:

Summary:  Carriers and terminals should take steps to ensure that they are compliant with the FMC’s recent interpretive rule.

It appears from actions by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), and statements by the Commissioners, that the FMC will soon undertake unspecified enforcement actions against carriers and terminals for non-compliance with the FMC’s Interpretive Rule on Demurrage and Detention Charges. 46 CFR 545.5 (85 Fed. Reg. 29666 (May 18, 2020)).  Given these threats, Jeffrey/Fenneman encourages our carrier and terminal clients to: (i) review their tariff rules and their invoicing practices against the FMC’s interpretive rule and (ii) to ensure that they keep appropriate records to demonstrate the reasonableness of their detention/demurrage charges, both generally and with respect to specific shippers.  Our more detailed explanation follows. 

A. Background

Ever since terminal congestion became an ongoing problem in the 2014-15 season, the FMC has paid closer attention to industry practices for the assessment and collection of demurrage and detention charges. This attention has since increased due shipper complaints and statements from members of Congress.  In 2018, the FMC initiated Fact-Finding Investigation No. 28, Conditions and Practices Relating to Detention, Demurrage and Free Time in International Oceanborne Commerce; a Final Report was issued in December 2018. 

More recently, the Commission undertook rulemaking to announce its policies as to how it would evaluate detention and demurrage practices under the Shipping Act prohibition against unreasonable practices by common carriers, marine terminal operator, or ocean transportation intermediaries.  46 U.S.C. 41101(c). The result of this rulemaking was the above referenced Interpretive Rule.

Although the rule was issued in the guise of an interpretive rule, and the Commission said at the time that the rule was not intended to set enforceable standards, the FMC has increasingly suggested that it views the rule as legislative in nature – that is, setting out standards with which parties must comply. 

B.  Recent Developments

Most recently, the Commission has announced a closed meeting for February 17, 2021 to discuss enforcement actions, and Commissioner Dye, the Fact-Finding Officer in Fact-Finding No. 29, International Ocean Transportation Supply Chain Engagement, has announced her belief that they will take such actions based on the interpretive rule:

“If I had to say right now, I would say that I believe that we should move toward enforcement.  I know that some carriers, some terminals who are doing their best to comply [with the FMC’s interpretive rule on detention and demurrage] but I’m very concerned — there isn’t a broad compliance with the rule.”

Other Commissioners have made statements to similar effect, and we expect Commissioners Bentzel, Maffei, and Sola will also be sympathetic to allegations of unreasonable practices and will support initiation of enforcement activities if the facts warrant.   

We do not know exactly what type of enforcement actions the Commission will take, but we suspect that it will include Bureau of Enforcement actions that could result in significant civil penalties.  There is also the possibility (perhaps probability) that shippers will increasingly bring complaint cases at the FMC against ocean carriers and terminal operators based on the Interpretive Rule.  As of now, we know of only one formal complaint pending at the Commission, but others are likely to follow, and there may also be ongoing “informal dockets” (these are not made public by the Commission).

C.     Conclusion

In sum, it is not always easy to read the tea leaves of the Commission’s plans, but we believe there is a strong likelihood that some type of enforcement activities will result from the meeting, or at least a rulemaking to strengthen the Interpretive Rule.  Jeffrey/Fenneman therefore encourages its clients to prepare for that possibility, as said at the outset.

*This publication was created for information and planning purposes. It is not intended to be, nor should it be substituted for, legal advice, which turns on specific facts.

 Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC Announces Launch

--Seasoned lawyers offer premiere service to the transportation industry --


 January 5, 2021, Washington, DC --

 Eric C. Jeffrey and Rebecca A. Fenneman proudly announce the formation of Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC, a boutique law firm in Washington, DC specializing in compliance with U.S. maritime laws, including representation before the Federal Maritime Commission, the Maritime Administration, and other Federal agencies. With over 50 years of combined relevant experience, Eric and Rebecca will provide client-centered and cost-effective advice and representation to the international shipping industry and its customers.  

 The need for such advice has never been greater.  The year 2020 saw massive disruptions and unanticipated swings in the U.S. international supply chain, affecting all participants in the shipping industry. Carriers raised rates, revised deployments, changed their equipment repositioning practices, and adopted new approaches to relieving terminal congestion.  Marine terminal operators had to adjust to variations in cargo flows.  Shippers responded to these changes, and U.S. maritime regulators became increasingly active in addressing shippers' complaints, adding reporting requirements, issuing industry guidance, and pursuing multiple fact-finding investigations.  In this fast-changing atmosphere, compliance has become both more complicated and more important for all members of the regulated industry.

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC is uniquely positioned to provide ocean common carriers, transportation intermediaries, terminal operators, passenger vessel operators, other transportation providers and their customers with unparalleled guidance in this brave new world.  With their deep regulatory and industry expertise, as well as their proven record of problem-solving, Eric and Rebecca will provide clients with solutions that comply with the rules and make commercial sense.

 Eric C. Jeffrey has specialized in counseling clients in maritime and other transportation matters for over 30 years.  He represents all aspects of the maritime industry, including ocean carriers, agreements of ocean carriers, NVOCCs, freight forwarders, and marine terminal operators.  Eric’s practice focuses on compliance issues and covers both advice to clients and representation in proceedings before the FMC and in the courts, including some of the FMC’s most significant cases. He is magna cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, clerked for the New Jersey Supreme Court, and engaged in private practice for 40 years.  Eric was selected by clients and peers as a Best Lawyer in America for admiralty and maritime in both 2020 and 2021.

Rebecca A. Fenneman is a seasoned legal practitioner with deep experience in regulatory compliance and enforcement of international ocean shipping, international transportation, logistics, and intermodal transportation policy.  She is known for finding creative business solutions for maritime and logistics companies, importers, exporters, ports and marine terminals in complex commercial disputes. She has served in many roles at the Federal Maritime Commission, notably:  General Counsel; Deputy Director, Bureau of Trade Analysis; and Director, Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services.  Rebecca received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Virginia (History) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland (with honor).  Recipient of the Federal Maritime Commission's Silver Medal for Meritorious Service, Rebecca retired as a career member of the Senior Executive Service on March 31, 2020.

On the formation of Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC, Rebecca A. Fenneman remarked, "It's simply an honor to have the opportunity to work with Eric, whose reputation for client-focused representation and integrity is unrivaled in the private bar.  I am convinced that, by combining our respective strengths, we will provide unequaled service to our clients."  

Eric C. Jeffrey noted, "I am privileged to work with Rebecca, whom I have known for many years as a knowledgeable regulator and a creative provider of solutions.  After the disruptions of 2020, predicting where 2021 will take the international shipping industry is unclear.  What is clear is that Jeffrey/Fenneman will be able to provide premiere advice, expert insights, and high-quality representation, wherever 2021 takes us."   

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC is a boutique law firm established to provide legal services to clients in matters involving the international shipping industry, especially matters within the jurisdiction of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and other Federal agencies. With over 50 years of combined specialized practice experience, extensive knowledge of the industry, and a unique knack for problem-solving, Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC will be a go-to law firm for guidance and representation for all transportation providers and the partners with whom they do business.

For further information or media inquiries:; or telephone +1 202.904.2301.

Jeffrey/Fenneman Law + Strategy, PLLC

700 12th Street, NW

Suite 700

Washington, DC 20005

+1 202.904.2301


This announcement contains attorney advertising and is designed for general information only. The information presented herein should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Persons accessing this announcement are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.