Ocean Shipping Reform Act introduced in Senate

Written by Nick Blenkey
Senators push for oil and gas leases

Image: Architect of the Capitol

Frustration with port delays and supply chain disruptions saw ocean shipping reform legislation pass the House by a bipartisan vote of 364-60 last December.

Now similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.), a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee and Chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Competition Policy, Antitrust, and Consumer Rights.

The legislation, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, is co-led by Senator John Thune (R.-S.D.) and cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D.-Wis.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Roger Marshall (ich.-Kan.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

According to Senator Klobuchar’s office it would address supply chain challenges by making it harder for ocean carriers to arbitrarily turn away goods at ports that are ready to be shipped abroad. It would also give the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) greater authority to regulate harmful practices by carriers.

“Congestion at ports and increased shipping costs pose unique challenges for U.S. exporters, who have seen the price of shipping containers increase four-fold in just two years. Meanwhile, ocean carriers have reported record profits,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation will help level the playing field for American exporters so they can get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price. As we work to improve our supply chains, I’ll keep fighting to establish trade opportunities for the U.S.”

Separately, Klobuchar introduced the Ocean Shipping Competition Reform Act, cosponsored by Senator Cory Booker, which would allow for third parties, including shippers and ports, to get involved in legal matters brought by the FMC against ocean carriers in vessel sharing agreements (VSAs, also known as “alliances”). The senators say that while alliances are intended to benefit the global shipping industry, only three alliances dominate the global shipping industry, creating an imbalance of market power.

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