US President Joe Biden spewed anger at container lines last week as he urged Congress to pass legislation to reel in shipping costs.

Speaking at the Port of Los Angeles with Evergreen Line containers visible in the background, the president said inflation is his top economic priority and criticized the record profits that liner operators are pocketing.

“Every once in a while something you learn makes you viscerally angry, like if you had the person in front of you, you want to pop them. I really mean it,” he said.

He then complained that nine major shipping lines in three consortia move goods from Asia to the United States.

“These companies have raised their prices by as much as 1,000 percent,” he said, noting that the liner operators are foreign-owned and posted a sevenfold increase in profits last year.

Biden’s remarks came as US officials announced the Consumer Price Index rose by 8.6 percent in May compared with a year earlier. It was the highest increase since December 1981.

He said in a statement that his administration will do everything it can to reduce prices.

Legislative action

“Congress must act urgently as well. I call on Congress to pass a bill to cut shipping costs this month, and get it to my desk, so we can lower the price of goods,” he said.

His comments are part of a push to pass the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

This would boost the power of the Federal Maritime Commission and tackle detention and demurrage costs, charges payable to the owner of a chartered ship in respect to a failure to load or discharge the ship within an agreed timeframe.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are gearing up to schedule a vote on a version of the bill already passed by the Senate.

In Los Angeles, the president said one of the key ways to fight inflation is to reduce the cost of transporting goods.

Seafood companies, like businesses in many other industries, have suffered from runaway shipping rates linked to the global container shipping crisis that began with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020.

Biden also used his remarks to claim success in fighting congestion that jammed US ports.

“Delivery times are actually quicker than they were before the pandemic, and today there are about 40 percent fewer containers clogging the docks for long periods of time than last November,” he said.

The comments come amid a warning by a leading shipping industry association that a proposed carbon tax on fuel will lead to higher container freight rates that could suppress demand for world trade.

The Global Shippers Forum (GSF) fears cargo owners could be forced to shoulder a rash of new surcharges if there is agreement to introduce a carbon tax on bunker fuel used to power vessels.