FMC’s 50th Anniversary - Federal Maritime Commission
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FMC’s 50th Anniversary

June 16, 2010

Anniversary Event Feature

On August 12, 1961, President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order that established the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) as an independent agency. Under the order, called Reorganization Plan No. 7, the shipping laws of the U.S. were separated into two categories: regulatory and promotional. The newly created FMC was charged with the administration of the regulatory provisions of the shipping laws.

Prior to the FMC’s birth as an independent agency in 1961, it was part of several predecessor agencies. In 1916, the original Shipping Act established the United States Shipping Board. In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that transferred its functions to the U.S. Shipping Board Bureau in the Department of Commerce. In 1936, Congress separated the Board from the Commerce Department; it became the U.S. Maritime Commission, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Joseph P. Kennedy to serve as its first Chairman. In 1950, the regulatory programs of the U.S. Maritime Commission were transferred to the Federal Maritime Board at the Department of Commerce, where they resided until the FMC’s creation in 1961.

The Commission is primarily responsible for the regulation of ocean-borne transportation in the foreign commerce of the U.S. The Commission’s creation in 1961 coincided with the early days of the containerization revolution – the spread of the use of intermodal shipping containers that could be carried on ships, rail, and trucks – that greatly increased the efficiency and reliability of international trade in goods. The passage of the Shipping Act of 1984 brought about a major change in the regulatory regime facing shipping companies operating in the U.S. foreign commerce. The subsequent passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998, with its deregulatory amendments and modifications to the Shipping Act of 1984, further signaled a significant paradigm shift in shipping regulation.

During the year leading up to its 50th-anniversary celebration, the Commission is holding a series of events to mark its history. The Commission’s inaugural anniversary event on June 16, 2010, featured an address by Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.