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U.S. Federal Maritime Commission Criticizes Faliure of Japan's Harbor Association to Reform Port Practices

Last year's ports disputes between the United States and Japan may re-emerge in the coming weeks as Japan's Harbor Transportation Association ("JHTA") has apparently failed to enact the necessary reforms required by the agreement reached by the two governments. That agreement focused on modifying Japan's "prior consultation" system that prevents foreign shipping lines from operating their own terminals in Japan.

U.S. Federal Maritime Commission ("FMC") Chairman Harold Creel has stated in recent weeks that the failure of the GOJ and the JHTA to take action may lead to the adoption of new measures by the FMC to force compliance with the agreement.

The FMC recently required the leading U.S.-flag container ship operators to submit reports by May 15 discussing the current conditions they face in Japanese harbors. Action by the FMC is expected after its review of those reports, which may occur within the next few weeks. It is likely that the FMC would not re-impose fines on Japanese carriers as it did last fall, but would rather impose direct punitive action against the U.S. operations of freight consolidators that are associated with JHTA.

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