Biden Names Chairman of FMC
President Joe Biden has designated Commissioner Daniel B. Maffei as the new Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, the FMC announced Tuesday.
Maffei is a sitting member of the FMC and replaces Michael A. Khouri in the role of chairman. A former Democratic congressman, Maffei was first appointed to the FMC at the end of the Obama administration in 2016. The Trump administration declined to confirm his appointment, causing his tenure to expire in 2018. His departure left the five-member commission with only two members, creating concerns for shipping interests. The Trump White House reappointed him later that year.
Over the past six months, Maffei has joined Commissioner Carl W. Bentzel in raising the alarm about the difficulties American shippers have faced in getting access to export container services. To handle peak demand for shipping from Asian manufacturers, certain carriers have prioritized rapidly returning empty containers to China, denying access to empty boxes and westbound box slots for U.S. agricultural exporters. "In responding to import cargo challenges, ocean carriers should not lose sight of their common carriage obligations to provide service to U.S. exporters," warned Maffei and Bentzel in December.
“I am grateful and humbled by the confidence President Biden has placed in me by appointing me chairman at such a critical time for our nation’s supply chain. Due to the effects of COVID-19 and an unprecedented import boom, we are dealing with serious challenges to America’s international ocean transportation system," said Maffei in a statement. "I want to sincerely thank Chairman Michael Khouri for his years of diligent service to the FMC and to the country. He and I sometimes have policy differences but, as Chairman, he was inclusive of all the Commissioners in making important decisions and worked collaboratively with stakeholders in the ocean transportation system to reach consensus solutions."
Maffei takes the helm at a busy time for the FMC. In addition to the question of access for containers for U.S. exporters, the agency has launched an active investigation into ocean carriers' practices on detention and demurrage and container return - particularly at LA/Long Beach and the Port of New York and New Jersey.