U.S. House Panels Open Price-Gouging Probe of Major Ocean Carriers

08 Mar U.S. House Panels Open Price-Gouging Probe of Major Ocean Carriers

Two U.S. congressional oversight panels have opened an investigation of three major ocean carriers, alleging that their dramatic rate hikes charged to shippers may have fueled inflation.

Leaders of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis and the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy – which operate under the House Committee on Oversight and Reform – sent letters on March 2 to the heads of Maersk, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd requesting information about their container rate increases and reports over the past year of exorbitant fees and surcharges.

The carriers are among 10 foreign-owned container ship operators controlling nearly 85% of the world’s container capacity, the committees stated. Using this market power, the 10 carriers “appear to have raised shipping rates in 2021 far more than any increase in costs,” resulting in $150 billion in annual profits, or nine times greater than 2020.

“Affordable shipping rates are critical to ensuring that small and medium-sized business owners can continue to make a living and provide goods and services to consumers at reasonable prices,” wrote the committees’ chairmen, James Clyburn, D-S.C., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.

“We are deeply concerned that [Maersk, CMA CGM and Hapag-Lloyd] may have engaged in predatory business practices during the pandemic, making scores of essential goods needlessly expensive for consumers and small businesses.”