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The Lloyd’s List Podcast: US lawmakers continue to look at ocean shipping

A flurry of ocean shipping legislation has been introduced in the US House of Representatives over the past months

Newly introduced bills, while still an early stage, cover a wide range of topics, including antitrust and alliances, data and China. This is a signal that US lawmakers are still interested in ocean shipping



WE are approaching the anniversary of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 enactment, which one head of a US shippers association said “changed what the US Federal Maritime Commission is all about”.

The bill was signed in the midst of the supply chain crises that saw carriers’ profits surge — much to their great surprise — while shippers were encumbered with skyrocketing rates and piles of per diem fees, often levied indifferently and for circumstances beyond their control.

In the run-up and aftermath of its signing, OSRA had rare bipartisan support. US importers and exporters struggled with fees, rates and capacity, and carriers, flush with more money than they ever expected, were portrayed as price-gouging villains.

While carriers probably did not do themselves any favours when it came to per diem charges, the FMC came out in the midst of the supply chain crisis and said that there was robust competition in the ocean shipping industry. Commissioner Rebecca Dye reiterated that view this week, saying that the pandemic did not lead to anti-competitive behaviour.

But if container lines thought that Congress’ interest in ocean shipping would fade after OSRA’s enactment and with the winding down of supply chain congestion, US lawmakers had other ideas.

A flurry of US legislation introduced over the past few months shows that when it comes to ocean shipping, and China, US lawmakers are able to see past their usual partisan bickering.

These bills are in preliminary stages but given their potential impact on container shipping, they are certainly worth a look at.

The proposed legislations cover a wide range of topics, from banning the use of Chinese-made software in US ports, to cancelling ocean carriers’ antitrust exemptions in the US, complaints against the Shanghai Shipping Exchange, limitations on “foreign made” — that is to say, Chinese — port equipment and software, and more.

This week, our US correspondent Tomer Raanan, spoke with Lauren Beagen, a former FMC attorney and founder of maritime consulting and legal solutions firm Squall Strategies to recap the year since OSRA’s enactment and to explore what is in these new proposals. 

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