Representative Josh Harder (CA-10) announced on Monday, Oct. 25 that he’s backing a new bipartisan bill, the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021, that will help fix the dire situation at California’s ports, combat China’s influence over international shipping, and bring down the rapidly rising costs of consumer goods. Over the past two years, the cost to ship a container has increased by up to 500 percent, making it significantly more expensive to import consumer goods and export American products. Huge backlogs at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which together account for 40 percent of the seaborn imports in the entire United States, have only made prices rise even higher. At the same time, China’s growing dominance in international shipping has allowed the country to drive cross-Pacific shipping rates. Together, these issues are contributing to the rapidly increasing cost of goods impacting every family in the Central Valley.
“We have to do everything we can to lower costs for families in the Central Valley, and this bill does exactly that,” said Rep. Harder. “Fixing the situation at our ports and fighting China’s influence on shipping prices means products get to our shelves faster, more efficiently, and most importantly – for a lower price. With Christmas around the corner, making sure our families can afford the products they need could not be more important.”
The Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2021 would:
• Establish reciprocal trade to promote U.S. exports as part of the Federal Maritime Commission’s (FMC) mission.
• Require ocean carriers to adhere to minimum service standards that meet the public interest, reflecting best practices in the global shipping industry.
• Require ocean carriers or marine terminal operators to certify that any late fees — known in maritime parlance as “detention and demurrage” charges — comply with federal regulations or face penalties.
• Shift burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of “detention or demurrage” charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier or marine terminal operator.
• Prohibit ocean carriers from declining opportunities for U.S. exports unreasonably, as determined by the FMC in new required rulemaking.
• Require ocean common carriers to report to the FMC each calendar quarter on total import/export tonnage and twenty-foot equivalent units (loaded/empty) per vessel that makes port in the United States.
• Authorizes the FMC to self-initiate investigations of ocean common carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures, as appropriate.
In California alone, the bill is endorsed by the California Farm Bureau Federation; California Rice Commission; Almond Alliance of California; California Citrus Mutual; California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association; California Fresh Fruit Association; California Table Grape Commission; California Walnut Commission; Sunsweet Growers Inc.; Western Growers Association; Pacific Coast Council Customs Brokers & Freight Forwarders (Northern California, Los Angeles, and San Diego Associations).