Federal lawmakers target empty shipping container backlog - Axios Twin Cities

2022-04-07 05:54:53 By : Mr. Yifei Zhou

Axios Twin Cities is an Axios company.

Federal legislation aimed at providing relief to Minnesota companies hamstrung by an international shipping bottleneck is nearing the finish line.

Driving the news: A bill co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar that seeks to curb the practice of cargo ships prioritizing empty containers over American-made goods at U.S. ports was approved with unanimous support last week.

Why it matters: Supply chain woes are leading to long wait times and high costs for companies, including those based here in Minnesota.

The big picture: Increased demand for goods here in the U.S. has created a situation where shippers can make more by prioritizing imports, as Axios' Hope King has reported, even if it means cargo carriers setting sail with empty containers that can be refilled overseas.

Zoom in: Joe Smentek, executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, tells Axios local producers of specialty soybeans are having "huge issues trying to get on the ships" to make it to food markets in Asian countries.

Details: The bill sets new limits around fees, directs the Federal Maritime Commission to draft rules prohibiting shippers from "unreasonably declining" U.S. exports and gives the commission more authority to regulate and investigate business practices.

What they're saying: Klobuchar says the bill will level the playing field by targeting international shipping conglomerates that are "exporting air" while there are "American products that are just left behind."

The other side: The World Shipping Council, which represents Maersk and other shipping giants, said in a statement that the bill "addresses none of the root causes of the U.S. landside congestion."

The catch: Even if the measure makes it into law, finalizing the new rules will take months.

Yes, but: Klobuchar tells Axios she thinks a strong message from Congress will trigger behavior change from the industry.

What's next: Klobuchar says while she initially thought an agreement between the two chambers would be included in a broader workforce and economy package, she thinks there's support for passage of a stand-alone compromise bill.

The bottom line: Smentek says while the proposed changes won't be a "silver bullet" to solve the crisis, they will "shed light" on a shipping industry often shrouded in secrecy.

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