DPI's knowledge center 

Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC)

What is a VOCC?

In the U.S. ocean trade lanes a Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC):

 - holds itself out to the public as a company that

 - provides ocean transportation for cargo between ocean ports in the US and foreign countries,

 - for compensation, and 

 - operates the vessel by which the ocean transportation is provided.  

A VOCC must own or control at least one vessel that calls on a U.S. port. 

Read on to learn more about VOCC Key Points and Obligations. 
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 Quick Law Links :  
U.S. Shipping Act: 46 U.S.C. § 40102(7) 

  VOCC Key Points

How can I operate as an VOCC?
Since the supply chain crisis of 2021, we've heard this question frequently at DPI.

VOCCs must own or control at least one vessel.

VOCCs must makes calls between a foreign port and at least one U.S. port.

VOCCs must hold themselves out to the public to provide ocean transportation services.

Private vessel charters where the vessel is loaded with cargo belonging to a single shipper or cargo owner are not subject to FMC regulations. This type of charter service is referred to as Tramper Service.
VOCCs that only transport bulk cargo are not subject to FMC regulations. Bulk cargo is defined as cargo that is loaded and carried in bulk without mark or count. Breakbulk cargo is not exempt.

VOCCs that are owned or controlled by the government of their home country are subject to additional FMC regulations. These VOCCs are referred to as Controlled Carriers.

While these are not FMC requirements, VOCC must also obtain a SCAC code and comply with U.S. Customs regulations, such as manifest filing via the Automated Manifest System (AMS).

  VOCC Obligations

VOCCs must comply with the U.S. Shipping Act and U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regulations.
Here are a few key regulatory obligations to keep in mind.:

VOCCs must register with the FMC and provide proof of vessel ownership or control.  

VOCCs must keep their FMC Tariffs updated to list all U.S. and foreign ports served.

When two or more FMC-registered VOCCs enter into an agreement for vessel space, container slots, or other services, the agreement must be filed with the FMC 45 days before operations under the agreement begin.

VOCCs must publish and maintain an FMC Tariff containing all rules and terms applicable to their ocean freight rates.

VOCCs must document their selling rates for ocean freight in Tariff Rates or in Service Contracts.

VOCCs must file all Service Contracts, both new and amended, with the FMC. To learn more about Service Contracts for VOCCs, click here

  Why become a Vessel-Operating Common Carrier (VOCC)?  

Many companies register as Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (VOCCs) in order to: 

 - advertise and sell ocean freight transportation services between U.S. and foreign ports,  

 - enter into Service Contracts with shippers and Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (NVOCCs), and 
 - signify to clients and vendors that their company is a certified ocean transportation service provider recognized by the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission and listed on the FMC's official list of VOCCs.

The ability to advertise and sell ocean freight transportation to multiple shippers, including NVOCCs, is often the driving factor for companies to obtain FMC VOCC registration.

With the supply chain crisis of 2021 vessel space is in high demand and DPI has seen an influx of vessel operators seeking to obtain FMC registration. 

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How can DPI help?

Since 1975, DPI has helped VOCCs all around the world comply with U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regulations. 

Our expert staff is ready to assist companies seeking to offer ocean freight services as VOCCs. We offer members the following VOCC-specific services: 

FMC Registration Handling,
- FMC Tariff Publication - Rules, and
- Selling Rate Compliance.

Read on for more info. 
What we offer

   FMC Registration

VOCCs must register with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) prior to offering ocean cargo transportation services in the U.S. trade lanes.  

DPI can help prepare your registration application which will include details about your vessels and planned operating schedule. 

While the FMC registration process is fairly straightforward, before you may begin VOCC operations you must provide FMC with proof of your FMC tariff which must include your Bill of Lading terms.

With DPI's assistance you can be sure that all is in order for your company to begin VOCC operations as soon as your registration is processed. We charge US $150 for registration handling.

Read on for information about DPI's FMC Tariff publication services. 
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   FMC Tariff Publication - Rules 

VOCCs must publish and maintain a tariff listing all charges, classifications, rules, and practices applicable to their U.S. ocean freight services. U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) tariff regulations require that tariffs meet detailed formatting, record-keeping, and access requirements.  

DPI has published 
thousands of tariffs for clients all over the world. When you publish your tariff with DPI, we ensure more than just basic compliance with FMC Tariff regulations. Our multilingual staff will recommend cost-effective tariff filing strategies and will be available to answer all your FMC-related questions.

Our secure online cloud database provides 24/7 access to your FMC Tariff and makes requesting updates easy and efficient. 

For new VOCCs, we will publish a tariff that provides all FMC required rules, the full text of your Bill of Lading, and commonly used commercial regulations. If you have an existing tariff and would like to switch to our services, we can also assist.  

Our fees for initial tariff rules publication and annual tariff data base maintenance fee are very reasonable. We charge nominal filing fees per new or revised filing. For our full price list, click here

  Selling Rate Compliance

U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) regulations require that all VOCCs document their ocean freight selling rates. There are two options for this documentation:

a) FMC Tariff Rate filing, and
b) Service Contract (SCs)

FMC regulations require specific and time-sensitive rate documentation to ensure that Tariff Rates and SCs are provided to shippers in a clear and timely manner. 

DPI offers compliance assistance with both options. Many of our VOCC clients use a combination of Service Contracts and Tariff Rate filing to comply with FMC regulations. Our staff are happy to review these options with you.

Review our Knowledge Center for more information on Service Contracts and Tariff Rates or contact us for more information today.

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