The World Shipping Council (WSC), which represents liner and semi-liner carriers calling at US ports, was adamant that: “The legislation is based upon a flawed ‘Discussion Draft’ that was a wholesale incorporation of unworkable, unnecessary and duplicative proposals—some of which contain serious due process of law concerns.”
The WSC’s vitriol went well beyond last week’s reactions from Mediterranean Shipping Corp (MSC) to recent complaints by a US based furniture cargo interest that were lodged with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).
The highly regarded WSC, which also has consultative status at the IMO pushed back on the OSRA 2021 inference that ocean carriers are solely responsible for the current supply chain congestion, noting the complexity of supply chains and that carriers have no control on the dynamics of “empties” being returned to them by cargo interests. Difficulties in agricultural interests securing boxes for exporting their cargoes westward across the Pacific into Asian markets was a major impetus for OSRA 2021.
But there is more to the container trades than empty boxes. Importantly, WSC takes the view that OSRA 2021 ignores the fact that all supply chain participants are working collaboratively to find solutions to today’s problems. They note that: “Supply chain participants including ports, carriers, labor, marine terminal operators, rail, truckers, chassis providers and shippers are collaboratively working to find operational solutions to increase efficiency and cargo velocity” as cargo volumes, including certain agricultural exports, have returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Another concern is that the new legislation would be viewed as protectionist, and could prompt retaliation by US trade partners. The WSC suggests that the free market sort out the numerous supply chain problems, rather than arming the FMC, which it feels is already working towards solutions, with additional regulatory powers.
The fight between the shippers and the carriers, now erupting in plain sight, may move in directions beyond press releases as legislation on “infrastructure”, with direct impacts on US ports and intermodal interfaces, set to be discussed and move through the US Congress in the coming months.
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