The US Federal maritime Commission (FMC) announced a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) earlier this month seeking public comment on the practices of vessel operating carriers relating to the definition of “Merchant”.

More specifically, the FMC seeks comments from the container shipping public to clarify:

  1. How carriers apply the word “Merchant” in their bills of lading;
  2. Whether this definition, as applied, imposes liability on third parties who have no contractual privity; and
  3. Whether carriers have enforced this interpretation against third parties who do not have privity and have not accepted to be bound by the terms.

Comments must be received by 6 November, 2020, and international forwarders and their customers are encouraged to share their views with the FMC, which has authority to issue interpretations and directions that are binding under US law.

Comments should be submitted by email in Word or PDF formats to Rachel E. Dickon, Secretary, Federal Maritime Commission: