Shipping prices, supply chain issues the focus of bill headed to Biden

On a bi-partisan vote Monday Congress sent to President Biden a bill to regulate the prices that international shipping companies can charge to carry goods from U.S. manufacturers and commodities from farmers.

"This is the first shot against the bow," said Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar in an interview with FOX 9.

Klobuchar, a Democrat, along with South Dakota Senator John Thune, a Republican, teamed up to write the bill called Ocean Shipping Reform Act designed to give the Federal Maritime Commission more oversight on the prices ocean going shipping companies can charge to U.S. producers to carry their goods.

"None of these companies are American," explained Klobuchar. "These are all these international conglomerates that think they can hide from the law and charge our hardworking small businesses, big businesses, as well as our farmers, too much to ship. And that is really hurting us when it comes to consumer prices."

Since the start of the pandemic, shipping prices have skyrocketed nearly four-times the price of what they were before the pandemic started. That has added to the many inflationary pressures both manufactures and consumers are facing across the globe. 

Additionally, to speed up the process of ships leaving American ports to head back overseas, Klobuchar charges that they have left U.S. exports sitting on the docks.

"They're saying, oh, we're not even going to take some of your American made stuff. We're just going to put empty containers on our ships because it'll go faster not to load them up. So we are cracking down on that with this bill," Klobuchar said.

The bill passed the U.S. Senate in an exceptionally rare unanimous vote in March. This week, the companion House bill sponsored by Representatives John Garamendi (D-CA) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) passed on a bipartisan vote of 369-42.

It now goes to President Biden, who is expected to sign it by the end of the week.

"Nine multinational ocean shipping companies formed three consortiums to raise prices on American businesses and consumers by over 1,000% on goods coming from Asia," said Rep. Garamendi in a statement. "This allowed these foreign companies to make $190 billion in profits last year – a sevenfold increase in one year."

But the prices that went up, may not come back down as fast. Once President Biden signs the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, the bureaucratic process of writing and implementing the rule making by the FMC will begin  But Klobuchar says the shipping industry is on notice.

"While it will take a while to put the rules in place to crack down on them, they're going to know it's sitting out there and that we are watching because we could even do more with antitrust law and other things, which I am more than willing to do," said Klobuchar. "But they know that we had strong support on both sides of the aisle and that we will do more if they keep messing with our consumers."