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

 |  March 2, 2022

By: Seth D. Greenstein (Constantine Cannon)

President Joe Biden’s call for shipping reform during his State of Union address is the latest indicator that the longstanding antitrust exemption for ocean carriers may be running aground.

On January 7, 2022, this blog asked whether supply chain delays and skyrocketing container shipping prices could lead to the end of ocean carriers’ historical immunity from the antitrust laws under the Shipping Act of 1916. Given events in the ensuing weeks, the answer may well be “yes.”

The White House released a Fact Sheet on February 28, entitled “Lowering Prices and Leveling the Playing Field in Ocean Shipping.”  After citing estimates that in 2021 the pandemic enabled the container shipping industry to reap profits seven times higher than its 2020 profits, and five times its profit over the entire prior decade, the Biden administration announced several steps designed to “lower consumer prices and level the playing field in ocean shipping.”  Id.  Among those initiatives, the President called on Congress to pass “reforms that address the current antitrust immunity for ocean shipping alliances.”  Id...