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US Congress Passes Ocean Shipping Bill

The Ocean Shipping Bill is intended to improve oversight of ocean shipping by the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the U.S. agency that oversees ocean shipping, and increase industry transparency. Supporters hope this will limit interference from a small group of large ocean carriers who currently control all aspects maritime trade often leaving importers and exporters with few options other than to accept additional costs. Rising ocean rates over the past 24 months have been a huge factor in the rising cost of goods in the United States.  

What does this Ocean Shipping Bill mean for the movement of your shipments?

  • Increase of “full” ship containers from the U.S. back to China helps reduce “empty container” miles. This will help curb import pricing. 
  • Fuller inventory levels may impact future orders and supply/demand levels. 
  • Requirement of ocean carriers to transport all goods and commodities versus selective intake on what they transport, given the current port congestion issues. 
  • If port congestion remains problematic, shippers need to continue to seek and leverage alternative ports. 

Others think the Ocean Shipping Bill will not ease congestion or create new capacity simply because it is only one aspect of an inelastic supply chain and stakeholders need to understand all the components of the bill in relation to the supply chain. In the end, supply and demand cycles are the real determinant of ocean pricing. 

What should customers know?

The Ocean Shipping Bill is expected to allow the Federal Maritime Commission to do three things that will help combat some of these practices and protect US companies: 

  • Mandate that ocean carriers reasonably accept export freight instead of turning containers around empty to speed up their return to more profitable origins; 
  • Better visibility into pricing practices and allow for enforcement to curb unnecessary fees and fines; 
  • Allows U.S. Government to protect U.S. importers and exporters from increased control and pricing power that industry consolidation has given to ocean carriers.