Hoeven, Thune introduce bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act

To help American producers more quickly export their products internationally, U.S. Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and John Thune (R-SD) on Feb. 3 introduced the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act to update federal regulations for the global shipping industry. 

If enacted, S. 3580, which is sponsored by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), also would address supply chain challenges by making it more difficult for ocean carriers to randomly turn away goods at ports that are ready to be shipped abroad, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

“Farmers, ranchers and producers in North Dakota and across the country need fair access to components essential to the shipping industry, including chassis, containers and vessel space to efficiently get their product to market,” Sen. Hoeven said. “This legislation will update federal regulations to help reduce export backlogs and ensure that the global ocean shipping industry cannot unreasonably refuse goods from U.S. exporters, including our ag producers.”

“South Dakota producers expect that ocean carriers operate under fair and transparent rules,” agreed Sen. Thune. “Unfortunately, that is not always the case, and producers across America are paying the price.”

Additionally, S. 3580 would permit the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), which regulates ocean-borne transportation, to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, the summary says. 

“The improvements made by this bill would provide the FMC with the tools necessary to address unreasonable practices by ocean carriers, holding them accountable for their bad-faith efforts that disenfranchise American producers, including those throughout South Dakota, who feed the world,” Sen. Thune said.

In addition to several other provisions, S. 3580 would require ocean carriers to certify that late fees — known in maritime parlance as “detention and demurrage” charges — comply with federal regulations or face penalties; and would shift the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier, according to the summary.

Among the other cosponsors of the bill are U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran (R-KS), Todd Young (R-IN), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Joni Ernst (R-IA).