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Trade Groups Urge Congress to Complete Ocean Shipping Reform Act 

calls to finish reform of Ocean Shipping Act
Reform of the ocean shipping regulations is waiting for a congressional conference committee

Published Apr 28, 2022 3:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

A collation of nearly 100 U.S. trade associations representing everything from manufacturing to retailing, food, trucking, warehousing, and agriculture, sent a joint letter to the leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate commerce and trade committees urging Congress to complete the reforms to the Ocean Shipping Act. After having passed both houses, the lawmakers need to convene a conference committee to resolve differences before the bill can proceed to President Biden who is expected to sign it into law.

“While we know that the supply chain disruptions will continue through 2022 and perhaps into 2023, it is time to finalize the OSRA (Ocean Shipping Reform Act) so that industry can begin to make the necessary changes to help address some of the unreasonable business practices the bill targets, especially strengthening the role of the Federal Maritime Commission,” the groups write in their letter to the heads of the congressional committees. “We now encourage you and your colleagues to come together to conference the differences between the two bills.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota and co-author of the Senate version of the bill recently told KTOE radio in Minnesota that she believes passage of the bill with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate already sends a strong message to the shipping industry. She said the fact it got unanimous support in the Senate along with the House passing a similar version is a “shot across the bow” to shippers. Klobuchar believes the FMC is ready to act and says it is clear to the shipping companies that they can “no longer export air,” in a reference to the movement of empty containers instead of exports from U.S. ports.

In their letter, the trade associations said they recognized that “there are a few provisions that need to be discussed and reconciled.” They however said they believed the House and Senate versions of the bills are complimentary and should be easily reconciled.

The groups reiterated their support for key provisions including the basic tenet of the bill that “ocean carriers adhere to minimum service standards that meet the public interest.” They support requiring certification for charging demurrage and detention charges and prohibiting carriers from declining export bookings. 

The World Shipping Council, the lobbyists for the liner shipping industry, has been vocal in their opposition to the bill saying it would cause more disruptions by failing to address the root causes of the problems in the supply chain. They cite the bottlenecks in the ports as the biggest problem saying the U.S. needs to invest in its port infrastructure and supporting transportation systems.