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US shippers renew bid to end foreign shipping line conferences

Send to a friend US trade groups have launched a new attempt to get the government to repeal anti-trust immunity, following the loss of support in Congress of campaign frontman James Oberstar. 

US shippers renew bid to end foreign shipping line conferences
21 January 2011 - 12:13

Lobby groups look for a new champion in Congress and the Senate

Send to a friend US trade groups have launched a new attempt to get the government to repeal anti-trust immunity, following the loss of support in Congress of campaign frontman James Oberstar. 

Last year, as a Congressman, Oberstar introduced the Shipping Act of 2010 to end the anti-trust immunity that foreign-owned carriers have enjoyed in the US since 1916, and stop shipping lines engaging in joint negotiations on freight rates or surcharges. 

However, in November he lost his bid for re-election and so the shipper groups are looking for another supporter within government. 

Twenty-nine trade groups, led by the National Industrial Transportation League (NITL), have sent letters to chairmen and ranking members of the Congressional Judiciary and Transportation & Infrastructure committees and the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees, urging them to abolish antitrust immunity to “place US importers and exporters on a level playing field with the carriers”.  The letter added: “That rare and special privilege allows foreign shipping companies to collectively fix freight rates, service terms and vessel capacity offered to US importers and exporters.  “In today’s global marketplace, there is no rationale for allowing these anti-competitive practices to continue.”

 The trade groups pointed out that their previous calls to scrap anti-trust immunity legislation, because of carriers breaching contracts and abusing rates, had not been resolved.  “The problems that thousands of US businesses faced in 2010 from the lingering economic recession were exacerbated by the ocean carriers who ‘rolled freight’ and stranded cargo in foreign and US ports, breached their contracts and applied virtually uniform across-the-board rate increases and surcharges,” said the letter.  “As long as ocean carrier anti-trust immunity continues, their customers – US importers and exporters – are denied the benefits of a competitive market for this essential service.  “We have already seen that the carriers can use their antitrust immunity to reduce service options and abrogate their contract terms.” 

The 29 trade groups include the American Apparel & Footwear Association, National Retail Federation, Transportation Intermediaries Association and Pacific Coast Council of Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Associations.

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