The US government is looking into the container industry's recent windfalls. File Image / Pixabay
The US Federal Maritime Commission is set to question eight container lines over the surcharges they have imposed during the recent freight-rate surges.
CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, HMM, Matson, MSC, OOCL, SM Line and Zim have been asked to submit evidence, the FMC said in a statement on its website on Wednesday.
The move follows an executive order from President Biden last month for the FMC to 'crack down on unjust and unreasonable fees'.
"This action was taken in response to communications received by the Commission from multiple parties reporting that ocean carriers are improperly implementing surcharges," the FMC said in the statement.
"In reviewing ocean carrier responses, the Commission will determine if surcharges were implemented following proper notice; if the purpose of the surcharge was clearly defined; if it is clear what event or condition triggers the surcharge; and is it clear what event or condition has been identified that would terminate the surcharge.
"The Commission can initiate enforcement actions for improperly established tariffs."
The companies have a deadline of August 13 to respond.
Earlier this week it was reported that furniture company MCS Industries is suing two global container lines over alleged exploitation in the recent abnormal surges in spot freight rates.
The company filed a lawsuit with the FMC on July 28 claiming violations of the 1984 US Shipping Act. The firm is suing Cosco and MSC for $600,000, arguing they have 'unjustly and unreasonably exploited customers' and manipulated the spot container freight market.