Bipartisan Senate group backs bill to ease port congestion, boost exports
Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, John Thune of South Dakota, and John Hoeven of North Dakota are among those behind legislation to update federal regulations for the global shipping industry. A similar House bill already has been passed.
WASHINGTON — A bipartisan Senate group is backing a bill to ease the shipping backlog at U.S. ports and boost exports.
The U.S. House in December passed its version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The bill would make it harder for ocean carriers to arbitrarily turn away goods at ports that are ready to be shipped abroad, according to news releases from members of the Senate.
It would also give the Federal Maritime Commission greater authority to regulate harmful practices by ocean-going carriers.
Backlogs at coastal ports have been an ongoing issue for agricultural and other products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senators Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, John Thune of South Dakota, and John Hoeven of North Dakota are among those behind legislation to update federal regulations for the global shipping industry.
The bill passed in the House was led Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., and passed by a vote of 364-60.
Provisions of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act include:
- Requiring ocean carriers to certify that late fees comply with federal regulation.
- Prohibiting ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the Federal Maritime Commission in new required rule-making.
- Requiring increased reporting ocean common carriers.
- Authorizing the FMC to initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices.
Separately, Klobuchar introduced the Ocean Shipping Competition Reform Act, co-sponsored by Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., 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. While such alliances are intended to benefit the global shipping industry, only three alliances dominate the global shipping industry, creating an imbalance of market power, according to a news release from Klobuchar's office.