Commissioner William P. Doyle of the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) informed about his decision to leave the commission on January 3, 2018.
Reflecting on the change in the international maritime industry including consolidations, mergers, bankruptcies and mega ocean carrier alliances, the Commissioner said he was involved in negotiating terms and conditions into carrier alliance agreements. As explained, this has provided additional safeguards from the alliances using their collective market power to drive down the rates of U.S-based suppliers, service providers, and small businesses.
“Looking back, I am pleased with the outcome of the 2014-2015 West Coast labor – management negotiations. I worked directly with White House cabinet secretaries, management and labor helping to conclude the negotiations – chassis was a big issue, as a lot of folks did not understand the labor/management sensitivities around the equipment,” Doyle said.
During Doyle’s tenure as Co-chair, China began to move its oceanborne international tax system from a business tax to a value added tax (VAT) regime. Doyle explained to China that businesses in the U.S. are seeking clarity and guidance on the new VAT rule as well as confirmation from China that the VAT is being applied fairly to all businesses. He also said that companies are concerned that they may be paying too much on the VAT and would like to know the reimbursement process. Further, if businesses were paying too little, they were concerned that they would be billed or penalized later.
“China was very attentive to the concerns of U.S. businesses. Ultimately, China issued a series of circulars, starting with Circular 106, exempting portions of shipping transportation from the VAT,” Doyle noted.
In addition, he mentioned the role of the FMC during the run-up to the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) SOLAS regulations: “I was concerned with the implementation of the new rule and helped to ensure shippers were not unduly burdened. I am pleased the FMC helped to achieve an increased clarity about how VGM requirements would be implemented.”
What is more, the Commissioner reflected on the developing and establishing the first Global Regulatory Summit hosted by the FMC with the participation of shipping and transportation regulators from China and the European Union. He stressed that there was a need for this type of government-to-government coordination because a new generation of mega ocean carrier alliances were beginning to form.
During his tenure, Doyle surveyed the construction sites of the Expanded Panama Canal twice.
“Congratulations to Panama. They took the bull by the horns and built ‘The Great Connection’ that will benefit world trade for generations to come,” he said.
In the wake of the 2016 Hanjin bankruptcy, Doyle advocated for more financial safeguards in the industry. Earlier this year, he said that the collapse of the shipping company was a wake-up call for the entire ocean transportation supply chain. As a consequence of the bankruptcy of the world’s seventh-largest carrier, more than USD 14 billion in cargo was stranded at sea and Hanjin ships were scattered all over the globe at anchor or just outside territorial waters. This went on and on and up and down the transportation chain costing tens-of-millions of dollars in additional losses to land-side operations.
“Post-Hanjin, the ocean carrier alliances have reacted in their own ways to help protect the shipping public. Companies may fail, but the responsibility lies with everyone, the alliances especially, at least to the extent that we do not have the damage that occurred post-Hanjin. I applaud the innovative actions taken by carriers of THE Alliance in creating a contingency trust fund designed to protect customers’ cargo and the ocean transportation chain should one of THE Alliance’s carriers experience financial distress or an insolvency event,” Doyle concluded.