Bennet, Hickenlooper Welcome Committee Vote to Hold Ocean Shipping Companies Accountable for Price-Gouging

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act, which Bennet and Hickenlooper and Co-Sponsor, Passed The Senate Commerce Committee On A Bipartisan Vote

Washington, D.C. - Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper applauded the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee’s vote to pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, a bipartisan bill they each co-sponsor to ensure American producers can affordably export their products and address the supply chain backlog overwhelming U.S. ports. Due to increased demand for goods and constrained capacity, international shipping prices have increased from $1,300 pre-pandemic to $11,000 in 2021 – hitting small businesses particularly hard.

“We cannot allow the ocean shipping industry to take advantage of our current supply chain issues to drive up costs for businesses and consumers in Colorado,” said Bennet. “I'm pleased the Commerce Committee today considered our bill to hold shipping companies accountable and stop their unfair price hikes, and I'll continue working with Senator Hickenlooper to get this over the finish line.”

“Foreign shippers are preying on American small businesses,” said Hickenlooper. “It’s time we level the playing field and lower costs for consumers.” 

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.