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Hickenlooper, Bennet Hail Biden Signing Bill to Hold Ocean Shipping Companies Accountable for Price-Gouging

Jun 16, 2022

Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which Hickenlooper and Bennet co-sponsored, became law with the President’s signature

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet applauded the President’s signing of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, a bipartisan bill they both co-sponsored to ensure American producers can affordably export key products and address the supply chain backlog overwhelming U.S. ports. Due to increased demand for goods and constrained capacity, international shipping prices have increased from $1,300 pre-pandemic to $11,000 in 2021 – hitting small businesses particularly hard.

Hickenlooper is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over intermodal cargo transportation and other supply chain related issues, and voted to pass the bill out of committee before it passed the full Senate in March. The House passed the legislation this week.

“Foreign shippers are fleecing small businesses,” said Hickenlooper. “This law will help lower prices and level the playing field for Colorado exporters.”

“This bill will hold shipping companies accountable as they exploit supply chains to drive up costs for Colorado businesses and consumers,” said Bennet. “This is an important step toward lowering prices for Coloradans.”

Ocean shippers have increasingly turned away goods U.S. exporters bring to ports, sending shipping containers back to Asia empty instead. Additionally, ocean shippers have been dramatically raising shipping costs and charging businesses exorbitant late-fees despite delays being the fault of congested ports. Small businesses are overwhelmingly bearing this burden by being priced out of shipping goods.

Specifically, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act:

  • Requires ocean carriers to certify that late fees — known in maritime terminology as “detention and demurrage” charges—comply with federal regulations or face penalties;
  • Shifts the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of these charges from U.S. businesses to the ocean carrier;
  • Prohibits ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC);
  • Requires 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;
  • Authorizes the FMC to investigate ocean carriers’ business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate; and
  • Establishes new authority for the FMC to register shipping exchanges.


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