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What One Importer’s Legal Fight Says About the Power of Cargo Giants

Hamburg Süd would be paid about $1,800 to ship each 40-foot container, which contained most of the furniture and household goods that OJ Commerce would sell under its own brands. The carrier delivered only 185. This forced OJ Commerce to pay very high prices to close last-minute bookings for its additional containers.

The complaint alleges that Hamburg Süd refused OJ Commerce’s containers so it could make money on rising shipping rates, and sold the same space to other importers for 10 times the contracted price.

OJ Commerce says its conflict with Hamburg Süd has destroyed its fastest-growing division, which manufactures products at factories in Asia and ships them to the United States for sale.

According to the complaint, Hamburg Süd’s sales staff devoted months to negotiating a new contract that would have started in June 2021, guaranteeing OJ Commerce passage for more than 4,000 containers from Asia to the United States in the following year. Then the carrier withdrew its offer and ceased negotiations.

“We should not engage in any renewal discussions with customers in light of potential litigation,” Juergen Pump, a senior vice president at Hamburg Süd North America, wrote in an internal email that OJ Commerce shared obtained and submitted his case to the maritime. commission. “Nor will I provide them with space in terms of the existing contract.”

In an interview Mr. Maffei, the regulator, declined to discuss the specifics of OJ Commerce’s litigation, but said: “The clear intent of Congress, and my intent as well, is to come down as hard as possible on any kind of retaliation. It undermines the whole system of enforcement.”

In documents submitted in the commission proceedings, OJ Commerce referred to an internal email dated April 29, 2021, from Kevin Li, a freight flow specialist in Hamburg Süd’s sales department, to Mr. Pump, who then oversaw the company’s North American division.

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