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House Passes Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021

The FMC may soon have more teeth in addressing urgent maritime issues as the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, H.R. 4996, has been passed by the United States House of Representatives.

The House voted 364-60 on December 8, 2021. The bill revises provisions related to ocean shipping policies and is designed to support the growth and development of U.S. exports and promote reciprocal trade in the common carriage of goods by water in the foreign commerce of the United States.

The full-text of the bill can be found here.

Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the bipartisan bill in August 2021.

The bill has many provisions that would enhance the FMC’s ability to address two main complaints of U.S. shippers throughout the pandemic, (1) ocean carriers’ detention and demurrage practices and (2) difficulty finding transport for exports. Under the bill, the FMC can initiate investigations, gather data, and even require data exchanges between ocean carriers and shippers.

Moreover, the bill prohibits ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators from retaliating or discriminating against shippers because such shippers have patronized another carrier, or filed a complaint. The FMC is directed to establish rules prohibiting ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators from adopting and applying unjust and unreasonable demurrage and detention fees.

Before the bill becomes law, it will have to pass the Senate and get President Joe Biden's signature. The bill is currently pending review in the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

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