The Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”) is responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system.U.S.-based companies or sole proprietors operating as Ocean Freight Forwarders (“OFF”) or Non-Vessel-Operating Common Carriers (“NVOCC”) are required to obtain a Ocean Transportation Intermediary (“OTI”) license from the FMC. Non-U.S.-based NVOCCs are not required, but may apply for a FMC-issued license. As per the FMC’s website http://www.fmc.gov/resources/how_to_apply_for_oti_license.aspx:

APPLICATION PROCESS FOR U.S.–BASED NVOCCS AND OFFS:
  1. Appoint a qualifying individual:
    • A qualifying individual must have at least three years of demonstrable OTI experience and, depending on the business form, be an officer of the applicant’s corporation, the sole proprietor, or a partner in a partnership.
    • The qualifying individual’s experience must have been gained in the United States.
  2. Submit electronically or print out and complete Form FMC-18: Application for a License as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary.
  3. Submit Form FMC-18 and the required license application fee.
APPLICATION PROCESS FOR NON-U.S.–BASED NVOCCS THAT CHOOSES TO BE LICENSED:
  1. Appoint a qualifying individual:
    • A qualifying individual must have at least three years of demonstrable OTI experience and, depending on the business form, be an officer of the applicant’s corporation, the sole proprietor, or a partner in a partnership.
    • The qualifying individual may have gained experience outside the U.S.
  2. Submit electronically or print out and complete Form FMC-18: Application for a License as an Ocean Transportation Intermediary.
  3. Submit Form FMC-18 and the required license application fee.
  4. A non-U.S.-based NVOCC must establish a presence in the United States such as an unincorporated branch office.

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