Johnson introduces Ocean Shipping Reform Act

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) on Aug. 10 introduced a bipartisan bill to modernize federal regulations for the ocean shipping industry that would provide increased trade opportunities for American exports.

“Foreign ocean carriers aren’t playing fair, and American producers are paying the price,” Rep. Johnson said. “It’s time for updated rules of the road. That’s what our bill does.”

Rep. Johnson cosponsored the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, H.R. 4996, with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) to amend the U.S. Code regarding prohibited acts by ocean common carriers or marine terminal operators, among other purposes, according to the text of the bill. 

For instance, H.R. 4996 would require ocean carriers or marine terminal operators to certify that any late fees — known as “detention and demurrage” charges — comply with federal regulations or face penalties and would shift the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of such charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier or marine terminal operator, according to a bill summary provided by Rep. Johnson’s office.

Additionally, H.R. 4996 would establish reciprocal trade to promote U.S. exports as part of the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) mission and prohibit ocean carriers from declining opportunities for U.S. exports unreasonably, as determined by the FMC, the summary says.

Among other provisions, the bill also would authorize the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate, according to the summary.

“Congress has not updated federal regulations for the global ocean shipping industry since China was granted permanent, normalized trade relations under the World Trade Organization in 2001,” said Rep. Garamendi. “Now is the time to ensure reciprocal opportunities for American exporters in trade with other countries to reduce the United States’ trade imbalance with cheap Asian imports.”

H.R. 4996 has been endorsed by dozens of national organizations representing numerous industry sectors, including the National Industrial Transportation League, the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Trucking Associations, the Consumer Brands Association, Dairy Farmers of America, the International Housewares Association, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the National Pork Producers Council, among many others.