The Ocean Shipping Reform Act was signed into law by President Biden last week

WASHINGTON – In an op-ed published in the Star Tribune, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) highlighted how the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, her bipartisan legislation with Senator John Thune (R-SD) to ease shipping backlogs, will strengthen supply chains and benefit farmers and consumers. 

“I have heard countless stories from businesses and farmers throughout our state who have struggled to get their goods to market because of the unreliable service and exorbitant fees from shipping carriers. This anticompetitive behavior has gone unchecked for decades — but not for much longer,” wrote Klobuchar. “The Ocean Shipping Reform Act…levels the playing field for manufacturers, farmers and consumers...Our legislation sends a clear message to the foreign-owned shipping alliances: charge fair rates, stop profiting off our backs and fill your empty containers with American-made products.”

The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously in March and passed the House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 369-42 last week, was signed into law by President Biden last Thursday.

From the op-ed:

  • “As bad as service has gotten, American exporters have been forced to play ball with the alliances because if they can't get their goods to market, they are out of business. Ultimately, that burden gets passed onto consumers — in the form of unstocked shelves and higher prices.”
  • “After hearing from so many Minnesota exporters bearing the brunt of these practices, I knew it was time to address the power imbalance between American shippers and multinational shipping companies.”
  • “Congress had to step in to prevent these carriers from slowing down our supply chain while shaking down farmers, businesses and consumers for their own profit.”
  • “[Our bill] includes provisions that block ocean carriers from unfairly and unreasonably refusing space on their ships for American goods.”
  • “I have always said that in order to lead in the global economy, we must be a country that makes stuff, invents things and exports to the world. A huge part of that vision is a strong supply chain — and that means our exporters need reliable access to shipping services.”

The legislation earned the endorsement of the American Association of Port Authorities, which represents more than 130 port authorities across North and South America, including the Port of Duluth-Superior. The bill was also endorsed by more than 300 organizations including the Association of Port Authorities, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Association, the California Association of Port Authorities, the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, and the Minnesota Corn Growers Association.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act will:

  • 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 the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier;
  • Prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably refusing cargo space accommodations for U.S. exports and from discriminating against U.S. exporters;
  • 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.