With the US federal government turning up the heat, CMA CGM is launching a programme to incentivise the country’s exporters to return containers early.

The French boxship giant announced on Thursday an early container return policy, which will start on 16 May, which it hopes will see 43,000 dry containers be put back into circulation within four days of pickup.

“CMA CGM is committed to doing everything we can to increase the fluidity and velocity of America’s supply chain,” said Ed Aldridge, president of CMA CGM (America) and APL North America.

“Our new programme will result in an incentive credit for our importers, improve equipment availability for our exporters and expedite the flow of goods into and out of America’s heartland. It’s truly a win-win for everyone.”

The effort will be in place at CMA CGM locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City and Memphis.

It will give shippers a $300 credit for each day a container is returned early in calendar days one through four. The credits will be paid out on a weekly basis with a credit memo issued every 14 days and EDI transaction data will be used to assess the credits, requiring no documentation from customers, the company said.

The programme will run until 15 July.

It comes as the Federal Maritime Commission continues pressing forward with various initiatives investigating liner operators for their behaviour during the massive port congestion brought on by increased consumer spending during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CMA CGM is one of nine companies included in the commission's Ocean Carriers Audit Program.

The audit began as a way of assessing liners' detention and demurrage practices, as US shippers were complaining that they were prevented from returning containers, then charged additional fees related to late return, but has grown into a more holistic look into how they treat US companies.

The commission last week also moved to require more disclosures from both liner operators and the three container shipping alliances, including the Ocean Alliance of which CMA CGM is a member alongside Cosco Shipping Line and Evergreen Line.