The international container shipping market is currently undergoing significant consolidation in response to slower growth in world container trade. This development may be problematic for some U.S. exporters and for the smooth functioning of ports. Congress is considering legislation that could lead to greater competition among container ship lines.
Container shipping, also known as “liner” shipping, carries most U.S. international trade and a growing proportion of agricultural trade. The international container shipping market, for decades, has had a persistent problem with oversupply of shipping capacity. Maritime trading nations generally have sought to develop and support their own fleets of ships for national and economic security reasons and/or to signify their nations’ development and global presence. More recently, overcapacity has been exacerbated by larger ships that have come into service at a time when trade growth has slowed.