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  • Writer's pictureMGMUS

FMC Holds Advisory Hearing to Discuss Threats to Shipping

Issues surrounding developments in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden examined with panels of maritime industry representatives and experts

This past Wednesday, February 7th, The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) held an advisory hearing to discuss the impact of conditions in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Regions on the global supply chain and commercial shipping. Metro Group Maritime was in attendance for the meeting, which featured testimony from those representing shippers; ports; carrier interests, and maritime security experts on the effect of global affairs on logistics operations and the economy.

Much attention was paid to the importance of communication and transparency by all parties in maintaining seafaring and freedom of navigation amidst potentially disruptive conditions. While FMC Commissioner Daniel Maffei opened the session by acknowledging a focus on the Red Sea, he also noted that the Commission was also mindful of the developing situation in the Panama Canal as drought conditions create difficulties for vessel movement.

During the hearing’s Carrier and Ports Panel, the World Shipping Council stressed that the “safety of seafarers” is of pivotal importance when considering the flow of cargo under present conditions. During the discussion, the Commission referenced a report by industry advisory group Sea-Intelligence noting that we are currently at the “peak disruption point,” which significantly affects port volume. As the testimony continued, the WSC explained some of the reasons for variance in surcharges amongst the various carriers, linking the increase in surcharges to operational changes, increased time at sea requiring more maintenance, as well as the adjustment to networks and blank sailing. Representatives from both the ports and carriers, as well as the Commission, concluded that the ports may need to adjust their operations to adapt to these changes in the future.

The second Shipper Panel, which also featured a maritime security expert, further highlighted the complications to the freedom of navigation posed by the activity surrounding the Red Sea. Shippers on the second panel noted that food aid shipments to the area have slowed down drastically, which has implications for humanitarian efforts across the region. Further, it was mentioned that while an oil tanker hasn’t been directly struck by the drone missiles yet, there is an increased risk of oil spills that would taint a water supply that is relied on by the surrounding population (which receives their water supply from the Red Sea via desalination plants). This portion of the panel also included a cataloging of the involvement of other countries in the region and what their respective roles have been in either alleviating or exacerbating disruptions, from the perspective of the maritime security expert.

The hearing concluded with the Commission reiterating the need to utilize transparency to help ensure vessel reliability. Chairman Maffei reviewed the ways that shippers can file complaints to the FMC as a way of keeping the line of communication intact and bolstered the notion that upholding freedom of navigation is paramount to the present moment. In thanking the FMC staff and hearing attendees, Maffei acknowledged that “no data points or news articles that would adequately shed light on all of this, and that’s why I think our most valuable source of information are the first-hand accounts, and particularly those from industry stakeholders and outside experts, which we got today.”


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