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Senate Passes Ocean Shipping Bill

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (S. 3580)—a bill designed to improve the supply chain by granting regulators more oversight, according to Bloomberg Law (subscription).

New ocean shipping regulations: The bill will increase regulators’ ability to oversee ocean shipping practices, prevent carriers from refusing U.S. exports and prohibit the unreasonable assessment of excess shipping fees. 

Desired effect: Senators hope the bill will improve the supply chain by diminishing backlogs at U.S. ports, streamline overall container exchange and movement and help U.S. exporters more easily and affordably ship their goods to international buyers.

Increased shipping costs motivate bill: Over the past two years, the price of shipping containers quadrupled, putting a heavy burden on U.S. exporters and raising prices for consumers. Meanwhile, mostly foreign-owned carriers made record profits while engaging in dubious practices like sending empty container boxes back to Asia.

What senators are saying: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said, “This legislation will help American exporters get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price. By passing this bill, we are one step closer to leveling the playing field for American manufacturers and consumers.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) said the bill would benefit consumers amid high inflation rates by “promoting the fluidity and efficiency of the supply chain.”

What we’re saying: “Manufacturers have been working with Congress for months to advance policy that will decrease shipping costs and clear port backlogs,” said NAM Director of Infrastructure, Innovation and Human Resources Policy Ben Siegrist. “Today’s Senate vote is a great step forward in addressing the problems ailing the shipping supply chain, and we’re grateful for the bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate on this bill. We look forward to seeing a final bill cross the president’s desk and bringing some sense of normalcy back to shipping costs and markets.”

Next steps: S. 3580 is the Senate companion to a bill the House approved in December. The House has twice voted to add this legislative language to a larger bill, including the America COMPETES Act and the U.S. Coast Guard Authorization Act. The bills will need to be part of a conference process to advance for final passage, an action that is supported widely by the bills’ sponsors in both the House and Senate.

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