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the White House just endorsed a revamp of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, explicitly citing concentration levels of the ocean carriers. So that’s good.
The rise in cost of shipping between Asia and the West Coast has meant that it is more profitable for the ocean carriers to quickly load empty containers or return without a full ship instead of waiting for loaded containers to get into the port. The share of exported containers at the two ports that are empty has risen from around 55 percent in the five years preceding the pandemic to over 70 percent so far this year.

Today a system of global alliances dominates global shipping where nine carriers that have been organized into three alliances control about 80 percent of the global shipping market and 95 percent on the critical East-West trade lanes.

Congress should take action here as well. The FMC needs more resources to oversee an industry with the size and scope of global shipping.

There is bipartisan support for doing this, including a bipartisan bill sponsored by California Democrat John Garamendi and South Dakota Republican Dusty Johnson. Their proposed legislation includes good first steps towards the type of longer-term reform to shipping laws that would strengthen America’s global competitiveness.
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