Vessel-Operating Common Carriers
A Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC) or ocean common carrier:
- holds itself out to the general public to provide transportation by water of passengers or cargo between the United States and a foreign country for compensation,
- assumes responsibility for the transportation from the port or point of receipt to the port or point of destination, and
- uses, for all or part of that transportation, a vessel operating on the high seas or the Great Lakes between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country.
Publication of Tariffs
Under Commission rules for VOCCs:
- All new VOCCs must notify the Commission prior to commencement of operations (46 CFR § 520.3) using Form FMC-1. Any changes to the contact information must be immediately updated using the FMC-1.
- All ocean common carriers are required to publish a tariff (46 CFR § 520.3). Tariffs must be open for public inspection and show all rates, charges, classifications, rules, and practices between all points or ports on their service routes.
- The Commission publishes a list of all carrier tariffs and a list of conference tariffs on its website.
VOCC Agreements Required to be Filed with the FMC
Agreements among ocean common carriers must be filed with the FMC (46 U.S.C. § 40302) unless specifically exempted by Commission regulations at 46 C.F.R. part 535. Examples of ocean common carrier agreements include the following:
- Space Charter Agreements are agreements between ocean common carriers whereby a carrier (or carriers) agrees to provide vessel space for use by another carrier (or carriers) in exchange for compensation or services.
- Vessel Sharing Agreements are agreements are agreements where two or more ocean common carriers are authorized to discuss and agree on the provision of capacity in a defined U.S. trade through the deployment of a specific liner service or services.
- VOCC Rate Discussion Agreements are agreements between ocean common carriers that authorize the discussion of any kind of rate and/or charge in a specified sub-trade or trades.
- VOCC Cooperative Working Agreements are agreements between ocean common carriers that establish exclusive, preferential, or cooperative working relationships that are subject to the Shipping Act, but that do not fall precisely within the parameters of any specifically defined agreement.
The FMC conducts a preliminary review of all agreements to determine if the agreement is in compliance with the Shipping Act and monitors ongoing activities once an agreement becomes effective.
Special Permission Applications
Applications for Special Permission to waive the notice period requirement for certain tariff publications may be filed pursuant to 46 CFR 520.14, and are posted below.
- Who is eligible – Common carriers (VOCCs and NVOCCs) and conferences may apply to establish rate increases or decreases on less than the statutory notice, or may apply for a waiver of the provisions of 46 CFR part 520.
- Application process – Application instructions may be found at 46 CFR 520.14
- Where to file – Submit your application to the Bureau of Trade Analysis by letter, which may be mailed or sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include evidence of payment
- Filing fee – $313 payable through pay.gov