Hoeven Helps Introduce Legislation to Ease Export Shipping Backlogs, Boost U.S. Exports

Farmers, Other Exporters Need Access to Shipping Containers

WASHINGTON – Senator John Hoeven, along with Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), John Thune (R-S.D.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), this week introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Act in the Senate. This bipartisan legislation would update federal regulations for the global shipping industry, helping American producers to export their products internationally. Further, it would address supply chain challenges by making it harder for ocean carriers to arbitrarily turn away goods at ports that are ready to be shipped abroad. The bill would give the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the federal agency responsible for the regulation of oceanborne transportation, greater authority to regulate harmful practices by carriers. 

“Farmers, ranchers, and producers in North Dakota and across the country need fair access to components essential to the shipping industry, including chassis, containers, and vessel space to efficiently get their product to market,” said Hoeven.“This legislation will update federal regulations to help reduce export backlogs and ensure that the global ocean shipping industry cannot unreasonably refuse goods from U.S. exporters, including our ag producers.”

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act is also cosponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Roger Marshall (R-Kans.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jerry Moran (R-Kans.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). 

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act would:

  • 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 burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier;
  • Prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking;
  • 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.

“Congestion at ports and increased shipping costs pose unique challenges for U.S. exporters, who have seen the price of shipping containers increase four-fold in just two years. Meanwhile, ocean carriers have reported record profits,” said Klobuchar. “This legislation will help level the playing field for American exporters so they can get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price. As we work to improve our supply chains, I’ll keep fighting to establish trade opportunities for the U.S.”

“South Dakota producers expect that ocean carriers operate under fair and transparent rules,” said Thune.“Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and producers across America are paying the price. The improvements made by this bill would provide the FMC with the tools necessary to address unreasonable practices by ocean carriers, holding them accountable for their bad-faith efforts that disenfranchise American producers, including those throughout South Dakota, who feed the world.”

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the export shipping backlog has impacted Made In America businesses, manufacturers, and workers as a result of anti-competitive, discriminatory practices in the ocean carrier industry. The bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act will give a needed boost to Wisconsin’s agriculture economy by easing the unnecessary shipping backlogs, adding transparency to the ocean carrier operators, and supporting our Made in America economy,” said Baldwin.