NCC on Tuesday joined nearly 300 agriculture and transportation companies and organizations in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urging immediate intervention to protect US exporters due to ongoing export capacity shortages to foreign markets.

“We are concerned with challenges imposed by vessel-operating common carriers (VOCCs), who are declining to ship U.S. agricultural commodity exports from U.S. ports, and imposing hundreds of millions of dollars of punitive charges already determined to be unreasonable by the Federal Maritime Commission,” the letter read. “The burden on hardworking exporters, manufacturers, farmers, ranchers and our rural communities is overwhelming. We urge the Department of Transportation to utilize all existing authorities to remedy the challenges experienced by U.S. agricultural exporters.”

The letter details the ongoing shipping situation where VOCCs are delivering massive volumes of imported shipments to U.S. ports and then electing to leave without refilling empty containers with American goods and products. The lucrative freight rates paid by import cargo, combined with congestion and delay at both West and East Coast ports incentivize VOCCs to return their containers to foreign destinations empty.

Carriers are also providing inaccurate notices to exporters of arrival and departure cargo loading times, which empowers them to impose financial penalties on importers for “missing” loading windows. The FMC has determined this practice is unreasonable.

“We need action now; not additional studies,” the letter concluded. “We ask the Department of Transportation to assist the [Federal Maritime] Commission in expediting its enforcement options. Additionally, we urge the Department of Transportation to consider its existing authorities to determine how it can assist with the transportation needs of the U.S. exporters and the farmers and ranchers they serve, in overcoming the current challenges in shipping goods and products.”

The USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC) and Tyson Foods also signed the letter.

The full letter can be found here.