Home Industry News Almonds Senate Version of Ocean Shipping Reform Act Introduced

Senate Version of Ocean Shipping Reform Act Introduced

The Almond Alliance is happy to see the Senate take the next steps in addressing the supply chain crisis, and thank the bill sponsors for their leadership. We continue to work with partners and members of the Senate as this bill moves to address unreasonable ocean carrier practices that are undermining U.S. export competitiveness, and having a direct effect on our farmers, food supply, and communities.

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and John Thune, R-S.D., on Thursday introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (S. 3580), the Senate response to the House version (H.R. 4996) passed by a wide bipartisan vote (364–60) in December.

Farm groups and other industries have complained bitterly that ships coming to the West Coast from Asia are going back to China and other countries empty to pick up more consumer goods to be sold in the United States, while not picking up the U.S. products that they would normally take to Asian consumers.

A trade association executive said the Senate bill “in some instances, is stronger than the House bill; however, aspects of it remain weaker as well. If passed, it will improve the overall supply chain situation in the future and help to build greater resilience against bottlenecks.”

Both Klobuchar and Thune are members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

In a news release, Klobuchar said the Senate bill “would address these supply chain challenges by making it harder for ocean carriers to arbitrarily turn away goods at ports that are ready to be shipped abroad. It would also give the Federal Maritime Commission, the federal agency responsible for the regulation of oceanborne transportation, greater authority to regulate harmful practices by carriers.”

In her summary of the bill, Klobuchar said it would:

  • Prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the FMC in a new required rulemaking;
  • Promote transparency by requiring ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import/export tonnage and twenty-foot equivalent units (loaded/empty) per vessel that makes port in the United States;
  • Authorize the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate; and
  • Establish new authority for the FMC to register shipping exchanges to improve the negotiation of service contracts.
  • Allow for third parties to participate in legal cases brought by the FMC against ocean carriers for anticompetitive harm; and
  • Let successful third parties in those legal cases receive money damages, with additional financial penalties designed to deter anticompetitive conduct.

In his summary, Thune said the bill would:

 

  • Require ocean carriers to certify that late fees — known in maritime parlance as “detention and demurrage” charges — comply with federal regulations or face penalties;
  • Shift burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier;
  • Prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking;
  • Require ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import/export tonnage and 20-foot equivalent units (loaded/empty) per vessel that makes port in the United States;
  • Authorize the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate; and
  • Establish new authority for the FMC to register shipping exchanges.

 

Also joining as original cosponsors of the bill were Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; John Hoeven, R-N.D.; Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Gary Peters, D-Mich.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Mark Kelly, D-Ariz.; Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; and Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

To View Full Press Release, Click Here.

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