President Joe Biden signed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law on June 16. The bill’s goal is to alleviate supply chain backups by increasing the investigatory authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
House lawmakers voted 369-42 on June 13 in favor of the bipartisan measure (S. 3580), the first major overhaul to ocean shipping rules since 1998. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate in March after similar legislation passed the House in December. It directs the FMC to prevent ocean carriers from unreasonably refusing to fill open cargo space with U.S. exports and investigate late fees charged by shippers. Among other provisions, the new law:
• Prohibits ocean carriers from unreasonably declining shipping opportunities for U.S. exports, as determined by the FMC in a new required rulemaking.
• Shifts the burden of proof regarding the reasonableness of detention or demurrage charges from the invoiced party to the ocean carrier.
• Improves transparency of movement of U.S. agricultural and other exports by requiring international ocean carriers to report to the FMC regarding how many empty containers are being transported.
• Formally establishes the FMC Office of Consumer Affairs and Dispute Resolution Services.
• Directs the FMC to have temporary emergency authority to collect data during times of emergency congestion, among other improvements.
The legislation increases the FMC’s funding levels from $32.9 million in 2022 to $49.2 million in 2025 to help the agency grow its staff.