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US Senate passes Ocean Shipping Reform Act

The US Senate yesterday passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, as the House of Representatives did in December. Now the two versions of the bill – the Senate’s and the House’s – will need to be reviewed and differences resolved, before a single version can go to President Biden for signing.

Senator John Thune, co-sponsor of the legislation with Senator Amy Klobuchar, said the legislation, “would level the playing field for American farmers, exporters and consumers by making it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse goods that are ready to export at US ports. Especially with record inflation in prices of goods, this legislation would also benefit consumers by promoting the fluidity and efficiency of the supply chain.”

Klobuchar emphasised the legislation’s expected positive impacts on port congestion and shipping costs. “Ocean carriers that are mostly foreign-owned have reported record profits. This legislation will help American exporters get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price,” she said.

The act would strengthen the investigatory and enforcement authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) and give the agency a new rule-making authority. Ocean common carriers would be required to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import and export tonnage and TEUs (loaded/empty) for each ship that calls at US ports.

On March 22, the World Shipping Council issued a statement saying that the Ocean Shipping Reform Act “addresses none of the root causes of the US landside congestion.” The Council noted that “import congestion is also consuming the capacity and space needed to ensure the uninterrupted flow of US exports.” According to the WSC, the House version of the bill “would make existing congestion worse.”

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.
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