Ocean Shipping Reform Act Won’t Benefit Port of Vancouver

Freight trains pass in front of the United Grain Corp. terminal at the Port of Vancouver
Freight trains pass in front of the United Grain Corp. terminal at the Port of Vancouver. (Moriah Ratner/Bloomberg News)

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Consumers and exporters saw financial turmoil from tumultuous international shipping practices in the past year. But the Port of Vancouver was not impacted like other harbors were.

The Columbia River is a rich vein for regional commerce, as it is lined with multiple ports that export products for global trade. It is a prominent gateway for grain exports and moves millions of tons of cargo every year, according to U.S. Wheat Associates. The Washington State Department of Agriculture reported that the state’s grown and processed exports totaled $7.7 billion in 2021, making Washington a trade-dependent state.

Not all Washington ports were impacted by the legislation, though. The Port of Vancouver is a bulk port that ships products that don’t fit into normal containers, said Therese Lang, Port of Vancouver director of communication. Harbors that ship containers — such as those in Seattle, Tacoma or Portland, Ore. — benefit more from the new regulations because they experienced considerable backlogs and storage issues.

“The Port of Vancouver USA does not anticipate any changes in operations due to the new Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022,” Lang said. “We feel our current practices will meet or exceed the new regulations developed by the Federal Marine Commission, and we will adapt to any unforeseen regulations appropriately.”

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Specifically, the OSRA provides the Federal Maritime Commission, a federal agency overseeing ocean transportation, tools to improve its management of international ocean carriers.

Under the new law, ocean carriers must certify that late fees comply with federal regulations, shifting the burden of proof from the complainant to the carrier. Shippers are now prohibited from unjustifiably rejecting American exports, and they must report how many empty containers are transported into the U.S.

The legislation gave the federal agency greater authority over shipping exchanges and enabled it to conduct investigations of a carrier’s business practices and apply enforcement measures when necessary.

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