Decoding OSRA – Section 9. Data Collection
We’re still only beginning to see how the recent and ongoing changes to U.S. shipping law will affect businesses’ imports and exports as well as carriers’ and other industry stakeholders’ operations within maritime shipping. At Universal Cargo, we want to help shippers know how law changes will affect them. What exactly does the Ocean Shipping Reform Act (OSRA) say and do? This blog series goes through it section by section, so you can see exactly what our lawmakers changed in the U.S. Code dealing with shipping.
We’ll give you the OSRA text; the text of the U.S. Code, usually in Title 46, before and after its amendments; and consider what those changes mean for U.S. importers and exporters.
Previously covered in this series:
- Series Introduction & Quick Coverage of Section 1
- Section 2
- Section 3
- Section 4
- Section 5
- Section 6
- Section 7
- Section 8
Obviously, that means today we’re covering Section 9 of OSRA. Let’s see exactly what it says and changes…
Section 9 is simple and straightforward. It requires ocean freight carriers to report to the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) the tonnage of shipping containers in TEUs (20′ equivalent units), delineating loaded versus empty, that are imported and exported per vessel to and from the United States. The FMC is to publish that information quarterly on its website.
Section 9 Text
SEC. 9. DATA COLLECTION. (a) In General.--Chapter 411 of title 46, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following: ``Sec. 41110. <<NOTE: 46 USC 41110.>> Data collection ``The <<NOTE: Web posting. Time period Reports.>> Federal Maritime Commission shall publish on its website a calendar quarterly report that describes the total import and export tonnage and the total loaded and empty 20-foot equivalent units per vessel (making port in the United States, including any territory or possession of the United States) operated by each ocean common carrier covered under this chapter. <<NOTE: Determination.>> Ocean common carriers under this chapter shall provide to the Commission all necessary information, as determined by the Commission, for completion of this report.''. (b) <<NOTE: 46 USC 41110 note.>> Rule of Construction.--Nothing in this section, and the amendment made by this section, shall be construed to compel the public disclosure of any confidential or proprietary data, in accordance with section 552(b)(4) of title 5, United States Code. (c) Clerical Amendment.--The analysis for chapter 411 of title 46, United States Code, <<NOTE: 46 USC 41101 prec.>> is amended by adding at the end the following: ``41110. Data collection.''.
Original Title 46 Text
Normally, sections of OSRA edit and replace text in Title 46, but Section 9 is a little bit different. It doesn’t amend any text in the U.S. shipping code. Instead, it just adds a new section at the end of Chapter 411. So this “Original Text” section that we’ve had in every part of this series so far gets an N/A, and the “Amended Text” section that’s also previously been in every part of this series gets an N/A too.
Observations on Paragraph (a)
Since you can read the addition OSRA is making to Title 46 here as well as I can, rather than summarize or paraphrase the changes made, I’ll just state what stands out to me about each paragraph in relation to the international shipping industry.
Notoriously, ocean freight carriers are not transparent. This paragraph forces some transparency by sharing with the public data about how many containers, full and empty, are on ships.
For U.S. exporters, particularly agricultural exporters, the data about empty containers is of interest. Agricultural exporters have complained about being refused containers and services by carriers increasing profits by sending empty containers overseas instead of ones slowed down by being filled with agricultural exports.
This data would also allow shippers to compare actual shiploads of cargo to the potential capacity of ships to see if cargo has gotten bumped or space has been refused for reasons other than the ship is full. The data also may help analysts determine how low a percentage of ships’ capacity filled it takes for carriers to blank (cancel) sailings.
Those are just a few points of interest shippers could have from this data, but I’m sure there are many more.
Observations on Paragraph (b)
I’m sure carriers don’t like the idea of disclosing any more data than they have to. Even without getting into the idea of disclosing trade secrets, there are costs associated with having people compile and submit data (there are even costs if this can be largely automated).
Costs aside, this paragraph attempts to give carriers assurance of not being compelled to publicly disclose confidential or proprietary information. However, carriers may consider the information about loaded and empty containers per vessel to be such information. I’d have some trouble with this reasoning because that information should be reported to the government anyway for the security purposes of knowing what is entering and leaving the country through the ports. Such information reported to the government also likely should be of public access.
Summary of Paragraph (c)
All paragraph (c) does is add the new section to the list of sections at the beginning of Chapter 11.
Section 9 brings a little more transparency to the international shipping industry. While this adds a little bit of work to the FMC and ocean freight carriers, I doubt that burden is too great to outweigh the benefits of the public knowledge. But that’s my opinion. Maybe yours is different, and you have something you think I should consider. If so, share it in the comments section below.
Of course, if there’s anything else in Section 9 of OSRA you think I missed, let me know that too.
Stay tuned for when Decoding OSRA continues, examining Section 10….