Key industry groups say the Ocean Shipping Reform Act, recently signed into law by President Biden, hasn’t fixed West Coast shipping problems for U.S. dairy exports yet. The National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Dairy Export Council trade manager Tony Rice says the Ocean Shipping Reform Act was supposed to end abuses by ocean carriers.
“But unfortunately, the situation hasn’t improved by any significant amount. There have been a few changes that are related to some of the fees that have been charged to shippers. A lot of the ocean carriers have dropped those fees, due to what we believe is legislation coming down the pike.”
But aside from abusive fees charged to shippers, Rice says port schedule transparency and excessive shipping of empty containers back to Asia hasn’t improved.
“Looking at the number of empty containers leaving the major West Coast ports, the number hasn’t improved. It’s still around 70 percent through the last three, four months here. That hasn’t changed from the last part of last year.”
Rice says the U.S. dairy industry lost over $1.5 billion in higher costs, lost sales, and reduced value last year. “Some of this product has been sitting in container yards, sitting in ships, and the quality and the value, of course, goes down.”
Rice says it will take time for the Federal Maritime Commission to write rules to implement the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.
In the meantime, he says top U.S. competitors in dairy—New Zealand and the EU—are falling behind in meeting global demand. That’s even more reason the U.S. industry needs to get its shipping problems fixed sooner rather than later.