U.S. Customs Issues $350M+ in Jones act Penalties Against Seafood Shippers

Kloosterboer International Forwarding LLC and Alaska Reefer Management LLC are seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction to stop U.S. Customs and Border Protection from what they say threatens their ability to supply Alaska seafood to consumers.

The two companies filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, Alaska after receiving notices of penalty to companies that harvest, process, store and transport Alaska seafood products to the eastern U.S. via the port of Bayside, New Brunswick, in alleged violation of the Jones Act.

The plaintiffs say this was a shock to the industry because the route targeted by U.S. Customs has been in place for some 20 years and relies on a long-established statutory exception to general Jones Act requirements. The route has also been subject to multiple Customs and Border Protection rulings and court decisions that confirm its legality, they said.

Per Brautaset, president of Alaska Reefer Management, said the company is reeling over the penalties.

“Customs has not been forthcoming to share specifics and Customs’ long-standing guidance tells us we are operating in compliance, Brautaset said.

According to Jennifer Adamski, director of logistics and operations for Kloosterboer International Forwarding, a close partner of American Seafoods, the company was forced to halt shipping in mid-August, creating food supply disruptions and economic hardship to the industry, customers and its employees.

Until notice of the penalties, the industry had received no hint that Customs was reconsidering its longstanding approval of the route and preparing notices of these penalties, Brautaset said. Nothing in the notices of penalty offers specifics about the alleged conduct that constitutes a Jones Act violation or ay rationale for the apparent reversal of this longstanding ruling, he added.

Kloosterboer International Forward is a small firm in Alaska that arranges to move goods from Dutch Harbor Alaska to various customers around the world. With its affiliate, Alaska Reefer Management, it contracts with ship owners, cold storage operators, trucking and fishing companies to move cargos in temperature-controlled setting to further processors in preparation for sale to consumers.

Alaska Reefer Management is a specialized reefer carrier serving the Alaska seafood industry and other global trades, to transport products port-to-port.