(Bloomberg) -- The House passed legislation Wednesday that provides the first major update of U.S. international ocean-shipping laws in more than two decades as the nation grapples with bottlenecks at its ports that are crimping supply chains.

The bipartisan Ocean Shipping Reform Act gives the Federal Maritime Commission an updated toolbox to protect exporters, importers, and consumers from unfair practices, updating the watchdog’s authority to regulate the industry for the first time since 1998, Representative John Garamendi, a California Democrat who co-sponsored the legislation with South Dakota Republican Representative Dusty Johnson, said in a statement.  

The legislation “provides much-needed updates and reform to an archaic system that retailers and thousands of other businesses depend on each day to transport goods,” the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail-trade association, said in a statement. “These improvements could not come at a more critical time, as the amplification from the pandemic has been severe.” 

Retailers have faced significant delays in moving and receiving their cargo because of supply-chain disruptions, which could impact the all-important holiday season for many businesses, the NRF said in a separate letter on Dec. 7 urging lawmakers to pass the bill. The logjams at some ports -- especially the key West Coast hubs of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- are tying up container capacity and underpinning already-soaring rates for transpacific ocean freight.

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