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House passes Ocean Shipping Reform Act

The bill revises provisions related to the nation’s ocean shipping policies in an effort to strengthen shipping supply chains.

December 9, 2021

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bipartisan bill designed to strengthen shipping supply chains. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, H.R. 4996, was passed in the House in a 364-60 vote.

The bill, introduced Aug. 10 by Rep. John Garamendi (D-California), revises provisions related to ocean shipping policies and is designed to support the growth and development of U.S. exports and promote reciprocal trade in the foreign commerce of the United States.

The bill would require shipping companies to adhere to minimum service standards that meet the public interest and block them from unreasonably declining cargo. Under the proposed legislation, shipping carriers and port operators cannot retaliate against a shipper, a shipper’s agent or a motor carrier by threatening to withhold available cargo space.

Additionally, improved data collection and reporting practices will be put in place under the bill through the creation of a shipping exchange registry. The Ocean Shipping Reform Act also requires the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to publish and annually update all of its findings of false certifications by ocean common carriers or marine terminal operators and all penalties assessed against such carriers or operators. Ocean common carriers also will be required to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import and export tonnage and the total loaded and empty 20-foot equivalent units per vessel that makes port in the United States. FMC would be authorized to initiate investigations of an ocean common carrier’s fees or charges and apply enforcement measures as necessary.

The bill now moves to be reviewed by the Senate.

The Washington-based Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) says it supports the House’s passage of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. ISRI states that it has been advocating on behalf of the recycling industry regarding unfair ocean shipping detention and demurrage charges.

“This is an important first step towards addressing both the long-term unfair shipping practices employed by ocean carriers and helping to solve the nation’s supply chain disruptions that are impacting the recycling industry as well as every sector of our nation’s economy,” ISRI states. “We urge the U.S. Senate to move quickly to also pass this bill. ISRI will continue to work with our coalition partners to advance this bill and improve our nation’s transportation networks.”