A bill aimed at controlling the cost of international shipping for American businesses and improving the supply chain is headed to President Joe Biden’s desk. Sponsors of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act hope it will help tackle rampant inflation, as prices rose 8.6% in May compared to the previous year.
The House of Representatives passed the legislation 369-42 on Monday after it cleared the Senate unanimously in March.
“This bipartisan legislation will level the playing field for manufacturers, farmers, and consumers – a major win as we work to strengthen our nation’s supply chain,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., one of the bill’s sponsors, said Tuesday morning.
The bill requires shipping companies to prove their punitive fees, like late fees, are reasonable, prohibits ocean carriers from unreasonably denying shipping space to American exporters, and allows the Federal Maritime Commission to investigate ocean carriers’ business practices and take enforcement action.
President Biden said he will sign the bill into law.
“I called on Congress to address ocean carriers’ high prices and unfair practices because rising ocean shipping costs are a major contributing factor to increased costs for American families,” the president said in a statement. “During the pandemic, ocean carriers increased their prices by as much as 1,000%. And, too often, these ocean carriers are refusing to take American exports back to Asia, leaving with empty containers instead. That’s costing farmers and ranchers — and our economy — a lot of money.”
The nation witnessed lines of container ships waiting in the Pacific Ocean during the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to containers stacked up in ports waiting for a truck and ultimately to empty store shelves. The cost of shipping increased as a result of high demand and lower availability. The costs were passed on to consumers and contributed to inflation.
“Especially as Americans continue to grapple with record-high inflation, this legislation would also benefit consumers by promoting the efficiency of the supply chain,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said of the impact on the economy.
The bipartisan measure is being lauded by its sponsors in the House and Senate. Lawmakers said it will provide much-needed help to American small businesses that are impacted the most by skyrocketing container prices.
“I introduced the ‘Ocean Shipping Reform Act’ to provide the Federal Maritime Commission with the necessary tools to protect American businesses and consumers and address America’s longstanding trade imbalance with China and other countries,” Rep. John Garamend, D-Calif., said of the bill’s passage.
“The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is the strongest fix to our maritime laws in a generation. Americans are facing record inflation, our bill isn’t a silver bullet, but help is on the way,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., said in a statement.