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OSRA 2022 – A cure worse than the disease?

Photo: Marcus Hand Containership at sunset in Singapore
The former head of US shippers’ organisation National Industrial Transportation League (NITL) Ed Emmett describes OSRA 2022 as a “cure worse than the disease”.

The container lines are in the political crosshairs in the US as they report record profits while shippers endure skyrocketing freight rates and supply chain challenges.

Among political measures that are afoot is the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (OSRA 2022) was approved last year in the House and recently gaining strong bipartisan support in the Senate

A refreshing perspective comes from Emmett, now a Fellow in Energy and Transportation Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy, in Houston, Texas, at Rice University. Emmett served as President of the NITL from 1992 through to 2003, a period which included the passage of OSRA 1998.

In an opinion piece in “The Hill”, an online political outlet headquartered in Washington, DC, Emmett offers the prognosis of  OSRA 2022, as: “The cure is worse than the disease.”

In looking back to his NITL days, he talks about work in crafting a previous bill, the OSRA of 1998, which deregulated liner shipping- encouraging carriers to craft customized service contracts with shippers. Importantly, he suggests that the process of developing OSRA 1998 involved consultations with European and Asian organisations dealing with liner shipping.

Contrast that with the 2021 and 2022 efforts, where, “Congress is hastily lurching forward and possibly opening the door for a return to unnecessary regulatory interference.” He is referring here to provisions in OSRA 2022 that would allow “the Federal Maritime Commission to launch investigations of carriers’ business practices on their own initiative, apply enforcement measures and write new rules”.

In his brief, Emmett concludes that: “The situation we have today is a consequence of the pandemic. Imposing mandates on the ocean carriers will not help. Policymakers need to follow the approach we laid out and engage every part of the supply chain to develop comprehensive, forward-looking solutions.”

Read the blog here