Ocean carriers have been imposing more and more considerable fees for containers that have been sitting for an extended period in the logjam that has snarled the supply chain during the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. lawmakers and regulators are taking a hard look at the charges and other shipping practices that critics say have sharply raised costs for American importers and hamstrung the ability of exporters to reach overseas markets.
While the new measures in Congress and actions by the U.S. maritime regulator, the Federal Maritime Commission, target a container shipping sector dominated by foreign-based carriers. From furniture and clothing importers to soybean and dairy exporters, Shippers welcomed the new legislation, which the American Apparel & Footwear Association said would “end these predatory practices.”
Meanwhile, the FMC recently launched enforcement actions against several carriers, resulting in firms being fined and forced to repay fees. Thus, the moves follow a year in which importers suffered severe shipping delays and skyrocketing shipping costs. At the same time, exporters say carriers have turned down shipments in a rush to get empty boxes back to Asia for eastbound trade that draws far higher rates. The average prices for shipping a container from Asia to the U.S. In sequence, West Coast increased price by about 500% last September from a year earlier, rising to more than $20,000. After the Covid pandemic strained the global supply chain, causing freight backlogs that have driven up costs. Now, some companies are looking for longer-term solutions to prepare for future supply-chain crises, even if those strategies come at a high cost.