On a voice vote, the Senate passed a shipping reform bill on Thursday that would make it harder for ocean carriers to unreasonably refuse to load U.S. goods ready for shipment at ports. The legislation was a response to congested ports and reports that some ship owners find it more profitable to haul empty shipping containers to Asia than to carry loaded containers.
“This legislation will help American exporters get their goods to market in a timely manner for a fair price,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat. “By passing this bill, we are one step closer to leveling the playing field for American manufacturers and consumers.”
The House passed a similar bill, 364-60. Agricultural exporters have been vocal about delays in shipments and the need for tougher regulation of carriers.
Under the Senate bill, carriers would have to prove that they are acting reasonably when they levy late fees for cargo. The bill would also prohibit carriers from unreasonably refusing to load cargo at U.S. ports and authorize the Federal Maritime Commission to launch investigations on its own of a carrier’s business practices.
Co-sponsor Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said the bill would help consumers by “promoting fluidity and efficiency of the supply chain.”