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Garamendi, Costa Introduce American Port Access Privileges Act to Support California Exporters

SOLANO COUNTY, CA—Today, Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA03) and Jim Costa (D-CA16) introduced the “American Port Access Privileges Act” (H.R.8243) to put U.S. exporters at the front of the line at our ports and support the American economy. This legislation follows up on the Congressmen’s bipartisan, bicameral Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 2022 (Public Law 117-146), which was signed into law by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on June 16, 2022.

“Foreign exporters’ access to the American market and our consumers is a privilege, not a right. Cargo ships looking to offload foreign-made products and profit off West Coast ports must provide opportunities for American exports in return. Congressman Costa’s and my legislation would put American exports at the front of the line at our ports to support American businesses and workers. Congress must restore fairness at our ports for American exporters to help reduce the United States’ longstanding trade imbalance with countries like China,” said Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA03).

“Supply chain disruptions are hurting California farmers and exporters like never before,” said Costa. “We need to remove bottlenecks and mitigate congestion at our ports to carry out American exports like the food grown in the San Joaquin Valley. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Garamendi to boost American exports and to help our Valley’s agricultural economy recover,” said Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA16).

The “American Port Access Privileges Act” (H.R.8243) would ensure fair trade for U.S. businesses and keep hard-won foreign markets accessible to California’s agricultural exporters by:

  • Codifying the current preferences for military, Jones Act, and other US-flagged vessels in place at many major American ports.
  • Establishing a secondary berthing preference for ocean-going commercial vessels servicing multiple ports in the United States or with significant cargo bookings of American exports. This new preferential berthing will reward ocean carriers that serve both importers and American exporters by moving those vessels to the front of the queue for unloading and loading. It will similarly incentivize ocean carriers to make second-leg voyages to ports like the Port of Oakland, which is critical for California’s agricultural exporters.
  • Ensuring that the new preferential berthing for export carrying-vessels would never interfere with U.S. Coast Guard orders for commercial vessels, port safety, or collective bargaining agreements for port workers.
  • Requiring that export-carrying vessels seeking preferential berthing report cargo bookings at least 7 days in advance to port operators.
  • Authorizing the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect data on berthing and cargo practices at U.S. ports. This will evaluate ocean carriers’ practices for port calls and cargo bookings, as well as the impact of preferential berthing afforded under the bill.

The “American Port Access Privileges Act” (H.R.8243) is endorsed by the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC), National Milk Producers Federation, California Farm Bureau Federation

Congressman Garamendi is a senior member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the former ranking member of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation from the 113th to the 115th Congresses.

The full text of the “American Port Access Privileges Act” is available here.

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