Biden, groups praise passage of Ocean Shipping Reform Act
President Biden and farm groups praised House passage Monday of the Senate version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, but port groups were cautious.
President Biden said he looks forward to signing it: “Lowering prices for Americans is my top priority, and I applaud the Congress for passing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act on a bipartisan basis, which will help lower costs for American retailers, farmers and consumers.” Biden said he wanted to thank Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Thune, R-S.D., and Reps. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., for shepherding the bill through.
USA Rice noted that the bill passed the House by a vote of 369 to 42 and would go to Biden for his signature.
In a summary of the bill, USA Rice noted, “The new law will prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining cargo when space is available and make positive changes for detention and demurrage fee invoice requirements, among other provisions. However, the Federal Maritime Commission, the federal agency that has authority over ocean carriers and marine terminals, will have to undergo a series of more than a dozen rulemakings over the next year or more for the law to ultimately take full effect.”
“USA Rice applauds the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act as a major step by Congress towards holding ocean carriers accountable and hopefully easing the burden on U.S. rice exporters that have been operating at a competitive disadvantage over the past few years,” said USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward.
International Fresh Produce Association Chief Public Policy Officer Robert Guenther said, “The bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act (S. 3580) provides much needed relief for our nation’s ports, in particular for the fresh produce industry that relies heavily on reliable, efficient ocean transport of fresh produce. This legislation empowers the Federal Maritime Commission to broadly regulate ocean shipping and ensure the timely delivery of perishable goods at all levels of the fresh produce supply chain.”
National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Ted McKinney said, “Undue burden to our food system and supply chain has been lessened today with the passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which maintains fair ocean carrier practices. Today’s actions couldn’t have come at a more needed time for the United States and the world as changes from the Ocean Shipping Reform Act will enable more U.S. agricultural products to reach the global marketplace.”
U.S. Meat Export Federation President and CEO Dan Halstrom said, “USMEF thanks both houses of Congress for their strong bipartisan support of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, and we look forward to final approval by President Biden. In these times of rising input costs, it has never been more important to maximize the value of our agricultural products, and the best way to do that is to ensure access to the international marketplace. This legislation takes important steps forward in improving the shipping services available to U.S. exporters.”
The Senate version of the bill was not quite as tough on the shipping industry as the House version was.
The American Association of Port Authorities said it “is pleased Congress found a moderate path to improving access and fluidity. Most germane to seaports is the availability of tools and incentives to promote fluidity as cargo moves through port facilities.
“The Ocean Shipping Reform Act represents substantial changes to the Shipping Act of 1984 and will allow the Federal Maritime Commission to increase staff and better define the rules of engagement. As the FMC initiates a rulemaking, the port industry looks forward to telling its success story of historic throughput and the operational enhancements that have made it possible. By working with supply chain partners and cargo owners to keep cargo moving more quickly, dwell times have dropped significantly from the height of the congestion last year.”
But the World Shipping Council said that the vote “marks the conclusion of the legislative phase and transition to the Federal Maritime Commission rulemaking process. We appreciate the time and effort that Congress has put into crafting this bill and look forward to engaging in productive conversations with the Federal Maritime Commission to implement OSRA in a way that will minimize disruption in our supply chain.”
“We are appalled by the continued mischaracterization of the industry by U.S. government representatives and concerned about the disconnect between hard data and inflammatory rhetoric. The 22 (not nine) international carriers that serve the American people, industry and government on the Asia-United States trade are part of the global supply chain that has built this country, importing and exporting food, medicine, electronics, chemicals, and everything else we depend on,” the council added. “The increased rate levels we have seen over the past years are a function of demand outstripping supply and landside congestion, exacerbated by pandemic-related disruption. The United States’ own Federal Maritime Commission’s recent Fact Finding 29 investigation conducted over the past two years concluded the same: ‘Our markets are competitive and the high ocean freight rates have been determined by unprecedented consumer demand, primarily in the United States, that overwhelmed the supply of vessel capacity. Congestion further constrained available capacity.’
“Until the import congestion is remedied, export congestion will persist. The World Shipping Council will continue to work with federal and state policymakers, as well as other parties, to pursue the necessary lasting solutions – such as continued investment in port infrastructure – that can have real impact in strengthening the intermodal transportation system that has supported the U.S. economy through the pandemic,” the council added. “Ocean carriers continue to move record volumes of cargo and have invested heavily in new capacity – America needs to make the same commitment and invest in its landside logistics infrastructure.”
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