Shippers ask new Congress for antitrust repeal
A group of 29 shipper organizations are asking for a renewed effort by Congress to repeal antitrust immunity for ocean carriers.
The shippers, from a range of industries, said such a change “would place U.S. importers and exporters on a level playing field with the carriers, not cost one penny of government money, and would allow U.S. companies to be more competitive in overseas markets and better serve their customers here at home.”
Nearly identical letters were sent last week to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary and Transportation committees. The letters argue that “one matter that deserves attention early in the 112th Congress is the repeal of existing antitrust immunity that foreign-owned ocean carriers have enjoyed since 1916.
“That rare and special privilege allows foreign shipping companies to collectively fix the freight rates, service terms, and vessel capacity offered to U.S. importers and exporters,” the letter continues. “In today’s global marketplace there is no rationale for allowing these anticompetitive practices to continue.”
Organizations signing the letter include the National Industrial Transportation League, the country’s largest shipper organization; the National Retail Federation; the National Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association of America; and the Agriculture Transportation Coalition.
The letter complains problems faced by U.S. businesses in 2010 from the recession “were exacerbated by ocean carriers who 'rolled freight' and stranded cargoes in foreign and U.S. ports, breached their contracts with U.S. importers and exporters, and applied virtually uniform across-the-board rate increases and surcharges.”
The letters were signed by many of the same groups who sent a letter in September 2010 to Rep. James Oberstar, asking for change in the law governing antitrust immunity in international liner shipping.
Oberstar and Rep. Elijah Cummings days later introduced H.R. 6167, the Shipping Act of 2011, which would have ended carrier antitrust immunity and would have given the Federal Maritime Commission additional powers.
The latest letters say Oberstar’s bill “began a much needed debate.” ' Chris Dupin