Vessel-Operating Common Carriers - Federal Maritime Commission - Federal Maritime Commission
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Vessel-Operating Common Carriers

Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (VOCCs) 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
  • Uses, for all or part of that transportation, a vessel operating between a port in the United States and a port in a foreign country

VOCC Agreements Required to be Filed with the FMC

Agreements among ocean common carriers must be filed with the FMC (46 CFR § 535.103) if they involve ocean transportation in the foreign commerce of the United States, and authorize the parties to engage in any of the following activities:

  • Discuss, fix, or regulate transportation rates, including through rates, cargo space accommodations, and other conditions of service;
  • Pool or apportion traffic, revenues, earnings, or losses
  • Allot ports, restrict or regulate the number and character of sailings between ports
  • Limit or regulate the volume or character of cargo to be carried
  • Engage in exclusive, preferential, or cooperative working arrangements among themselves or with one or more marine terminal operators
  • Control, regulate, or prevent competition in international ocean transportation
  • Discuss and agree on any matter related to service contracts

The FMC conducts a preliminary review of all agreements to determine if the agreement is in compliance with the Shipping Act, and ongoing monitoring of activities once an agreement becomes effective.

How to File an Ocean Common Carrier Agreement

Agreements may be filed electronically using the eAgreements application.

Please note that you will need a user account to file an agreement in this application. User accounts can be requested by emailing

  • your name,
  • email address, and
  • a brief description of the agreement you are seeking to file.

Please note that any agreement filed through this application will immediately be made available to the public.

Agreements may be filed in hard copy by sending the appropriate documents to:

Office of the Secretary
Federal Maritime Commission
800 North Capitol Street
Washington, DC 20573

On-going Reporting Requirements

For as long as an agreement remains in effect, quarterly monitoring reports (46 CFR § 535.702) must be filed by parties to ocean carrier agreements that authorize discussion or agreement on the following activities:

  • capacity rationalization
  • where the agreement parties hold a combined market share of 35 percent or more and the agreement authorizes certain activities
  • the Commission may require that parties to an agreement with market share below the 35 percent threshold, submit monitoring reports
  • in addition to or instead of the normal monitoring report, the Commission may require alternative periodic reporting requirements for parties to an agreement

Minutes of Meetings Required to be Filed for VOCC Agreements

For as long as an agreement remains in effect, parties to carrier agreements that authorize discussion or agreement on the following activities must file minutes of agreement meetings (46 CFR § 535.704):

  • rates or charges in tariffs or service contracts
  • pooling or apportionment of cargo traffic
  • discussion of revenues, losses or earnings
  • any service contract matter, including voluntary service contract guidelines

Monitoring reports and minutes of meetings should be filed electronically.

Publication of Tariffs

When publishing VOCC Tariffs:

Service Contracts and Essential Terms

An individual ocean common carrier or an agreement between or among ocean common carriers may enter into a service contract with one or more shippers.

Contact Information

Phone: 202-523-5793