William P. Doyle served on the US Federal Maritime Commission during a tumultous era defined by US West Coast labor strife and the bankruptcy of Hanjin Shipping. Photo credit Shutterstock

William P. Doyle, who used his post on the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to advocate for reforms including financial safeguards in ocean carrier bankruptcies, plans to resign from the regulatory agency on Jan. 3.

His departure, following Mario Cordero’s resignation to become Long Beach port director, will leave the FMC with two vacancies. Remaining members are Acting Chairman Michael Khouri, and commissioners Rebecca Dye and Daniel Maffei. Khouri and Dye are Republicans. Maffei and Doyle are Democrats.

Doyle did not disclose his future plans. “I am looking forward to what comes next in my career,” he said. Doyle has served on the commission since 2013.

His term does not expire until June 30, 2018, but he could have remained on the commission until his successor was nominated, confirmed by the Senate, and appointed by the president.

It is not unusual for the FMC to operate with less than its full five-member complement. Dye’s term expires in 2020, and Khouri’s in 2021, and they also will be able to stay on the commission until their successors are named. Maffei’s term expired last June, but because of a change in the law, he must leave in June 2018 unless he is reappointed.

Before joining the FMC, Doyle was chief of staff at the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association, and served in the Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska Natural Gas Transportation Projects. Previously, he earned a law degree and spent more than a decade as a marine engineer on US-flag ships.

During his time on the FMC, Doyle was regarded as an activist commissioner who applied his maritime background to seek practical solutions to industry problems.

He was nominated by former president Barack Obama and joined the FMC as the commission was becoming more closely involved in trying to solve port congestion issues that reached crisis levels in the ports of New York and New Jersey, Los Angeles-Long Beach, and Virginia.

Though port congestion has eased, its echoes continue. The FMC has scheduled hearings on Jan. 16 to 17 on a shipper-led coalition’s complaints about congestion fees. Shippers and forwarders have asked the commission to issue regulations to prevent carriers or terminals from charging demurrage for late pickup of cargo and detention for late return equipment when port congestion or other issues beyond a shipper’s control.

Another continuing issue for the commission during the last several years has been carrier mergers and acquisitions and a consolidation of container lines’ global alliances into three major groupings. Doyle said he was proud of his work in pushing to protect US businesses from possible abuses from an increasingly consolidated carrier industry.

“I’ve had the opportunity to find reasonable compromises with some of the world’s largest ocean carrier companies and build solid working relationships with governments that oversee international oceanborne trade,” he said.

After Hanjin’s 2016 bankruptcy left ships and cargo stranded around the world, Doyle said he “was on the phone every day for about 45 days straight with Hanjin officials trying to help them move cargo."

He praised the creation of shipper-protection measures such as a contingency fund created by THE Alliance. “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,” he said.

Contact Joseph Bonney at joseph.bonney@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @JosephBonney.

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