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U.S., Japan Agree On On Reduced Harbor Fine

Tue., Oct. 28, 1997

The Federal Maritime Commission reached a compromise agreement with Japanese shipping lines Monday that appeared to bring to an end a dispute that had threatened to close American ports to Japanese ships.

Under the agreement, the Japanese carriers paid $1.5 million of an original $4 million fine that the commission imposed after the Japanese government had refused to reform port practices.

At issue was the stranglehold the Japan Harbor Transportation Association maintains over port operations. U.S. officials said inefficiencies in port operations had substantially increased the costs to American carriers of their export business in Japan.

Japanese organized crime groups are widely believed to wield substantial control over the country’s ports.

Earlier this month, the commission issued an order to deny Japanese carriers access to U.S. ports, triggering concern about prospective shortages of cameras, stereos and computers just as the Christmas shopping season was about to get under way.

But the order was never implemented because U.S. and Japanese officials were able to negotiate a breakthrough in talks on port reform.

Until Monday, however, there was no agreement on whether the fines imposed by the commission would remain in effect.

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