President Biden on Thursday signed the first major overhaul of U.S. maritime laws in nearly 40 years, a measure he said will lower costs for consumers frustrated with sky-high inflation.
The bill makes it tougher for foreign shipping companies to refuse to fill cargo space with U.S. exports, a practice that has grown over the past two years as cargo carriers sought to quickly return empty containers to Asia and take advantage of higher prices for Asian exports.
It also gives the Federal Maritime Commission more tools to investigate late fees charged by ocean carriers, and paid by importers and exporters. These fees are then passed on to the consumer, increasing the costs of products.
Mr. Biden said the bill will put a stop to foreign carriers taking advantage of American businesses, farmers and consumers. There are nine major foreign shipping companies, which have consolidated to three alliances to control the vast majority of shipping.
“While families and businesses struggled around the world, these carriers made $190 billion in profit in 2021, seven times higher than the year before,” the president said at a White House bill-signing ceremony. “They raked in the profits and the cost got passed, as you might guess, directly to consumers, sticking to American families and businesses while they could.”
It is the first major revision of U.S. shipping regulations since the Shipping Act of 1984.
SEE ALSO: Gas prices leave Biden with few options going into world energy, climate forum
The bill, which received bipartisan support, cleared the Senate this week. Several major trade groups also endorsed the measure, including the National Retail Federation and the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Mr. Biden has blamed ocean carriers’ shipping rates for rising inflation, which has reached its highest level in 40 years. He has been calling on Congress to take action to help bring down shipping costs.
In his remarks Thursday, Mr. Biden said that during the pandemic, ocean carriers increased their prices by 1,000% while refusing to take exports back to Asia, costing Americans a lot of money.
“It’s going to help begin to lower shipping costs, bring down prices on everything from goods to products that the American families need, that they make to export as well as import,” Mr. Biden said.