Maritime labor groups are asking Congress to go slow as it considers changes to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act that could affect carrier antitrust immunity.
In an apparent response to a letter from shipper groups to Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., urging abolition of antitrust immunity, the two major longshore unions and three principal seafarer unions said that any legislation calling for changes to OSRA should not be done unless all parties in the industry agree to OSRA changes that are "practical and necessary" to mitigate a future crisis.
Last June, Oberstar, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told a shipper forum that he intended to file a bill that would abolish carriers' antitrust immunity.
Oberstar spoke as the Federal Maritime Commission was investigating a shortage of capacity and equipment at the start of 2010. Carriers said the shortages were a response to the 2009 recession. The labor letter noted that carriers addressed the capacity issues and that available space exceeds exporters' demands.
Abolishing antitrust immunity could have an adverse effect on U.S. liner carriers and jobs of U.S. workers, the letter said.
The World Shipping Council said it was disappointed with the shippers' letter to Oberstar "and its lack of recognition of the facts. The group said it has worked with the FMC and shippers to discuss how to improve contracting processes.
"The liner shipping industry is willing to discuss the Shipping Act and the current regulatory system with the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with shippers, with labor, and with the port community," the WSC said.
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