Tester Fights for Supply Chain Transparency, Pushes for Overhaul of Ocean Shipping Regulations

Senator urges action on legislation to empower Federal Maritime Commission, increase U.S. exports

As a part of his continued effort to unclog the supply chain and lower costs for Montanans, last week U.S. Senator Jon Tester pushed for increased supply chain transparency in a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

“I’m going to tell you that it doesn’t make any sense that we allow ships to leave our ports empty,” Tester told Federal Maritime Commission Chair Daniel B. Maffei. “I don’t think there’s anybody in this country that would say that ‘if we have stuff that needs to be shipped out, we should allow ships to do that.’ Now, if the big guys are more powerful than the United States, then we’ve got to figure out something else. Because it sounds like they do what they want, whenever they want, with damn little transparency, charge whatever they want, don’t let that information get out to the general public – so they know how bad they’re getting taken to the cleaners – and we don’t have the tools to deal with that. This is a hell of a problem… if we can fix this, this would be a giant step forward.”

“One of the things that the legislation has is that we would collect and be able to report to the public, aggregate numbers on exports – at least the public would know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are,” responded Maffei.

“In the end, what we need to know, is why can’t we export our products when other countries – when China – can import [to the United States]. Why can’t we export? What is going on? And somebody needs to get out a big baseball bat and educate some folks,” concluded Tester.

Tester’s exchange with Maffei comes amid record import volumes at U.S. ports, prompting increased wait times for offloading and long lines of container ships at ports across the nation. Congestion at ports has strained truck and warehouse capacity, slowing the U.S. supply chain, and resulting in increased costs for consumers. Additionally, recent reports suggest that ships in U.S. ports are declining to export American goods after unloading foreign imports. This has adversely affected Montana farmers and producers nationally, making it unnecessarily difficult for Americans to ship goods overseas and diminishing foreign markets for agriculture products.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Act would help to solve supply chain issues by providing the Federal Maritime Commission with greater authority to regulate harmful and discriminatory practices by international shipping companies; require carriers to certify that the fees they charge for delays are in compliance with federal regulations or face penalties; increase transparency on how many empty containers carriers are transporting; and prohibit ocean carriers from unreasonably declining U.S. exports that have been stranded at the docks.

Tester has continuously fought to improve the U.S. supply chain and lower costs for Montanans, and was one of five Democrats and five Republicans that crafted the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law. Tester’s law will make urgently needed investments in our nation’s shipping infrastructure, including $17 billion in port and waterway infrastructure. It also invests in modernizing Montana’s aging roads and bridges, water systems, land ports, and airports, making it easier to haul goods and conduct business throughout Montana and the United States at large.

A full list of Montana provisions in Tester’s bipartisan infrastructure law can be found HERE.