President Joe Biden yesterday signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA) into law. As we reported when the measure was passed, the legislation expands the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) in a number of ways.
President Biden, who in no fan of the major ocean carriers, turned his attention to them again in remarks made at the signing ceremony,
“Nine major shipping companies consolidated into three alliances control the vast majority of ocean shipping in the world and each of these carriers is foreign-owned,” he said.
“During the pandemic these carriers increased their prices by as much as 1,000% …. these carriers made $190 billion in profits in 2021, seven times as the year before
“They raked in the profits and the costs got passed on, as you might have guessed, to the consumer — sticking it to American families and businesses because they could.
“In addition, these foreign-owned carriers have also been refusing to carry American made products back to Asia … I knew that something had to be done …”
WORLD SHIPPING COUNCIL RESPONDS
Whether OSRA achieves what it is intended to do remains to be seen. Meantime, in a statement released following the signing ceremony, the World Shipping Council (WSC) said, “We are appalled by the continued mischaracterization of the industry by U.S. government representatives, and concerned about the disconnect between hard data and inflammatory rhetoric.”
In its statement, the WSC referenced the Federal Maritime Commission’s recent Fact Finding 29 investigation conducted over the past two years and cited it as saying : “Our markets are competitive and the high ocean freight rates have been determined by unprecedented consumer demand, primarily in the United States, that overwhelmed the supply of vessel capacity. Congestion further constrained available capacity.”
“Until the import congestion is remedied, export congestion will persist,” the statement concludes. “The World Shipping Council will continue to work with federal and state policymakers, as well as other parties, to pursue the necessary lasting solutions – such as continued investment in port infrastructure – that can have real impact in strengthening the intermodal transportation system that has supported the U.S. economy through the pandemic. Ocean carriers continue to move record volumes of cargo and have invested heavily in new capacity – America needs to make the same commitment and invest in its landside logistics infrastructure.”