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Container Carriers Face New US Ocean Shipping Antitrust Enforcement Act

 |  March 29, 2023

New measures in the US Congress may impact container carriers, as they face the possibility of losing their antitrust exemption. This comes as the first shipping reform law in 20 years is still being implemented.

During the pandemic, as consumer demand increased and logistics networks became congested, some liner companies were accused of operating like cartels. This allegedly led to higher freight rates for US imports and other busy routes, while they declined to take lower-fare exports.

One bill would scrap the exemption for the predominately foreign-owned ocean carriers from federal antitrust laws.

Related: UPDATE: The End of the Ocean Carriers’ Antitrust Exemption?

The Ocean Shipping Antitrust Enforcement Act would also “address unfair practices that harm American businesses, producers, and consumers,” such as unjustified container rate increases and refusing cargo bookings for American exports. 

The bill was introduced last week by California Democrats Jim Costa, John Garamendi, Josh Harder and Jimmy Panetta, and South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson.

 In a statement Monday, the World Shipping Council rejected the bill’s premise that carrier agreements are uncompetitive. The group said it would work with the bill’s sponsors to understand their policy objectives.