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Hickenlooper Seeks to Hold Ocean Shipping Companies Accountable for Price-Gouging

Mar 17, 2022

Bill would halt dramatic shipping price hikes for agricultural exporters and small businesses in Colorado

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper cosponsored the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, a bipartisan bill updating federal regulations to ensure the ocean shipping industry allows American producers to affordably export products to international markets and address the supply chain backlog overwhelming U.S. ports.

Due to increased demand for goods and constrained capacity, shipping prices have increased from $1,300 pre-pandemic to $11,000 in 2021.

“The foreign shipping cartel is using the supply chain crisis to extort American small businesses,” said Hickenlooper. “Our bill will stop them.”

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 bill:

  • 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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