The National Industrial Transportation League on Friday threw its support to the Shipping Act of 2010, a bill that would curtail ocean carriers' ability to discuss rates and service fees.
The NIT League called the bill, introduced on Monday by Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., "an appropriate first step toward achieving a more robust, competitive and efficient maritime industry … The time has arrived to reexamine the U.S. Shipping Laws governing the international liner trades, and … the proposed legislation provides an appropriate starting point to achieve regulatory reform."
Oberstar's bill would abolish nearly all protection ocean carriers have from antitrust laws, except agreements to enhance service, such as vessel sharing agreements.
The shipper organization noted market conditions in January, when carriers, they claimed, caused equipment shortages as a means of boosting revenue. Carriers denied the claim and recently said that available vessel capacity is back to normal. The Federal Maritime Commission launched an investigation of shippers' allegations. While the final report is not due until Nov. 30, the commission already put two trans-Pacific discussion agreements under enhanced monitoring.
"The League believes that the current U.S. shipping regulatory system could be improved to better serve the interests of U.S. businesses that employ millions of Americans and are required to compete in a global marketplace," the statement said. "U.S. businesses that rely on imports and exports must strive continually to improve their competitive position. They must be able to depend on a highly competitive and efficient ocean transportation system where their suppliers compete openly and individually to price their services."
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