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Sens. Thune (R-SD), Klobuchar (D-MN), Hoeven (R-ND), and Baldwin (D-WI) Urge Federal Maritime Commission to Carefully Implement Ocean Shipping Reform Act

On December 9, 2022, Sens. Thune (R-SD), Klobuchar (D-MN), Hoeven (R-ND), and Baldwin (D-WI) urged Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) Chairman Daniel Maffei to provide additional clarity on the definition of “unreasonable” as it relates to refusal by ocean carriers to provide vessel space accommodations.  Per their letter, “in order to ensure the law is faithfully implemented in a manner consistent with congressional intent, the definition of ‘unreasonable’ must adequately take into account both transportation and commercial-related factors when evaluating the behavior of an ocean carrier.  We agree with the Commission’s view that ‘commercial convenience alone is not a reasonable basis’ for refusal by an ocean carrier to deal or negotiate. However, we have questions about the breadth of the ‘transportation factors’ under the proposed rule. In particular, an ocean carrier might point to the ‘existence’ of ‘scheduling considerations’ as a basis for refusing to negotiate with a would-be exporter.  We urge you to consider whether additional clarifying language about the magnitude of the ‘transportation factors’ might provide useful guidance to industry and align with the goal of promoting an efficient, competitive, accessible, and affordable global shipping market, consistent with congressional intent.”

In June, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act was signed into law, which ASA supported. The bill strengthens the authority of the FMC by providing it with new tools to help level the playing field for American exporters and counteract anticompetitive behavior. The bill would also help FMC more efficiently resolve disputes between ocean carriers and shippers, while also taking actions at the U.S. Department of Transportation to alleviate strain across the supply chain.