Ocean Shipping Reform Act: a fix to shipping container delays

While the larger infrastructure talks continue, lawmakers are also taking a closer look at shipping delays for ag exporters.

Ag exporters have sounded the alarm about shipping delays at ports and empty containers headed back across the ocean with no cargo.

Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Ag Transport Coalition says that they estimate their members are losing out on 22 percent of their sales.

According to Friedmann, “We’ve sold the cargo though we can’t get it on a ship, and so we have cancellation of sales, or sales just not being completed because the foreign customer knows they can’t get it.”

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers are hoping to improve the situation with the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which would put in place new minimum requirements for service contracts.

“It makes it clear that there can be no unreasonable refusal to carry freight. Number two, it improves the enforcement, it does things like, allowing the FMC to self initiate investigations,” Rep. Dusty Johnson states. “It allows registration and shipping exchanges, it puts into place anti-retaliation safeguards and, critically important, shifts the burden of proof to the carriers. Then finally, this legislation does a lot to increase. transparency with quarterly reports and annual reports to Congress.”

California Democrat John Gerimundi says that they took feedback from constituents and the Federal Maritime Commission during a hearing in June.

“Additional information was garnered from that hearing confirming the concerns that both of us had heard from our constituents and from others, up and down the Mississippi River basin, and on the west coast. The problem was severe, the control of the shipping by a handful or two handfuls of ocean carriers, really eliminated the competition that had been in place for many, many years prior to the increased consolidation.”

The measure has already earned broad support from ag groups, including the American Farm Bureau and members of Congress representing a wide variety of commodities.

The bill would be one of the first major update to maritime shipping regulations since 1998 and Congressman Johnson says that it could be included in Coast Guard reauthorization legislation coming later this year.


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