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The U.S. House of Representatives advanced legislation last week to reform the ocean shipping industry.
The Ocean Shipping Reform Act (H.R. 4996), introduced by U.S. Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD), aims to make the Federal Maritime Commission a more effective federal regulator. Garamendi, a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said the act would ensure a more competitive global ocean shipping industry while protecting American businesses and consumers from price gouging.
“Access to the American market and its consumers is a privilege, not a right,” Garamendi said. “Congress must restore balance at our ports and tackle the longstanding trade imbalance our nation has with China and other countries head on. I am pleased that the ‘Ocean Shipping Reform Act’ has passed the U.S. House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, bringing us one step closer to protecting American consumers and businesses from price gouging by foreign-flagged ocean carriers.”
The legislation would also establish reciprocal trade opportunities to reduce the trade imbalance between the United States and export-driven countries like China. The legislation would require ocean carriers to adhere to minimum service standards, as well as require ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to certify that any late fees comply with federal regulations or face penalties. The legislation also shifts the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier.
“We’ve all been impacted by the backlog in the supply chain and shipping delays,” Johnson said. “China and the foreign flagged ocean carriers aren’t playing fair, and accountability is long overdue. If you want to do business with American ports, you need to play by our basic rules… The Ocean Shipping Reform Act puts American consumers, farmers, retailers, truckers, manufacturers, and small businesses first. Our bill passed the U.S. House with strong bipartisan support, and I look forward to seeing it pass the Senate.”
The legislation is endorsed by a multitude of organizations, including Agriculture Transportation Coalition; American Farm Bureau Federation; National Retail Federation; American Trucking Associations (ATA); Dairy Farmers of America; International Paper; Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Inc.; National Association of State Departments of Agriculture; National Association of Chemical Distributors; National Chicken Council; National Cotton Council; Pet Food Institute; Travel Goods Association; Truckload Carriers Association; U.S. Dairy Export Council; and Wine and Spirits Shippers Association.
“Ensuring fair practices at our ports is critical to ensuring goods get from docks to warehouses and store shelves,” said Jon Eisen, director of ATA’s IMCC. “House passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act is a major step toward modernizing regulations to reflect the commercial realities of ocean freight and their impact on our domestic transportation networks. ATA welcomes the improvements in this bill and a vigorous debate over these issues.”
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