Cantwell Statement on Passage of Ocean Shipping Reform Act

Cantwell: “Today we're saying that American farmers matter and their survival matters more than the exorbitant profit of international shipping companies.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, by a unanimous voice vote, the U.S. Senate passed the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022. The bill will now go to the House. U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, spoke on the Senate floor immediately after the bill was passed.

“Right now, the supply chain isn't working. Our ports have been clogged, shipping companies have struggled to keep up with demand, and the cost of American exporters, who are trying to get hay, milk, and apples to the global market, have gone through the roof, said Cantwell. “It is hurting our consumers here at home as I see prices increase, and hurting our exporters when they're looking at products they are trying to get to market.”

Cantwell continued, “American exporters and their products are being left on the docks, and that's why we wanted to act quickly, because the American farmer, with growing season upon us, can't afford to wait another minute for the Federal Maritime Commission to do it’s job and help police this market…getting this legislation on to the president's desk could not be more important.”

The bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 aims to level the playing field for American exporters and importers by providing the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) the tools it needs to improve oversight over international ocean carriers, which refer to international shipping lines, and crack down on rising shipping fees. During the COVID-19 pandemic, American consumers shifted to buying goods online. The resulting port congestion left exporters, including American farmers, struggling to get their products to global markets because of unpredictable sailings, ocean carriers denying American cargo, and skyrocketing freight costs. Pre-pandemic shipping rates for a forty-foot container could be $1,300, but by September 2021, jumped to $11,000. These additional costs have trickled down the American consumer with the price of goods, ranging from electronics to food, going up.

The FMC is charged with protecting the interests of U.S. businesses that rely on ocean transportation under the Shipping Act, which was last amended in 1998. S.3580 provides the FMC the tools it needs to eliminate unfair charges, prevent unreasonable denial of American exports, and improve the oversight and enforcement tools needed to crack down on unfair practices facing American businesses and consumers.

A one-page explainer of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act and a list of bill supporters is available HERE. A section-by-section summary of the bill is available HERE.

Last Tuesday, March 22, Senator Cantwell led an executive session of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to advance the Act.

On March 18, Senator Cantwell was in Seattle to help announce a new pop-up storage facility to ease congestion at the Port of Seattle.

At the March 3, 2022 hearing to examine the legislation, Cantwell said, “We are going to fight for these shippers who need to get their product to international markets, and as a very trade dependent state, I will make this the biggest priority of this Committee, if it's what it takes.”

Senator Cantwell has consistently championed Washington’s ports and coauthored the 2019 legislation that reauthorized U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Maritime Administration’s (MARAD) Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP).

Most recently, the program was reauthorized in the 2021 National Defense Reauthorization Act, a provision authored by Cantwell. As Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator Cantwell worked to include a record $2.25 billion for the program in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and in September 2021, Cantwell led a letter calling for increased funding for the PIDP program to help address the ongoing issues with port congestion.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor speech from today is available HERE, audio HERE, and a transcript HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s floor remarks from March 24, 2022 is available HERE, and full transcript HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement from the March 22, 2022 executive session is available HERE and a transcript is available HERE.

Video of the March 18, 2022 USDA pop-up port announcement is available HERE, audio is available HERE, and a full transcript is available HERE.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement from the March 3rd hearing to examine the Ocean Shipping Reform Act is available HERE, audio is available HERE, and a transcript is available HERE.