Amid rising inflation, Biden is targeting maritime shipping

Some economists have repeated these arguments, saying it is a function of supply and demand.

“I think the rise in rates that has taken place during the pandemic is largely due to an increase in demand for imported goods coupled with a slowdown in ports, functionally leading to a reduction in the number of vessels operating,” Colin Grabow said , a trade analyst at the Cato Institute.

Daniel B. Maffei, chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, said in an interview that there was “no question” that changes in consumer demand as a result of Covid have caused shipping prices to rise rapidly. But, he added, “does that mean shippers have to charge that much?”

The Commission has never launched an antitrust case against a freight forwarder. But Mr. Maffei noted that “conditions are absolutely, completely different now than they were two years ago. The pandemic has changed everything.”

The shipping industry denies that its alliances have led to price fixing. The alliances that shipping companies form allow them to share space by loading some of their own cargo onto a ship operated by a partner. But these agreements stipulate that companies cannot discuss their prices, Mr Butler said.

“It’s just not something that happens,” he said.

However, some logistics experts say that collaboration between shipping companies has ultimately reduced competition and concentrated market power, indirectly giving them more freedom to dictate prices and schedules.

Caitlin Murphy, chief executive of Global Gateway Logistics, a freight forwarder, said small businesses in particular have been hurt by shipping practices during the pandemic, even as alliances have skipped less profitable ports. Her company had attempted to ship cargo from India to New York, but some carriers avoided the Port of New York to avoid congestion.

“It reduces the supply of ships available in India, which drives up the price,” she said. “As a result, it has become very difficult to transport products around the world.”

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